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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No.1 in F major, Op.8 [22:28]
Violin Sonata No.2 in G major, Op.13 [21:28]
Violin Sonata No.3 in C minor, Op.45 [24:17]
Elena Urioste (violin), Tom Poster (piano)
rec. 2017, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
ORCHID RECORDS ORC100126 [76:49]

In the Spring, from Grieg’s Op. 43 #5, is the subtitle of this disc and it is an apt choice. Elena Urioste and Tom Poster bring a true spring-like ambiance to their arrangements of this work and the famous Last Spring. This is also true of their readings of Grieg’s violin sonatas, but with these they do not neglect the stormier currents that run through all three.

It is frequently pointed out that Grieg wrote only five major chamber works, the Cello Sonata, the String Quartet, and these sonatas, and that the violin sonata form must have appealed to him. The first two violin sonatas date from the composer’s early to mid-twenties while the third is a work of his maturity; they thus provide a true precis of his musical development. The first sonata’s opening has a mixture of Germanic influences and of qualities typical of the more mature composer. The second movement combines adagio and scherzo and is much “folkier” than the first while the last movement is completely virtuosic, an element that must have appealed to Liszt, who was a great advocate of the sonata. Urioste and Poster handle these quick-changing features with great dexterity, moving without difficulty between the emphatic and the wistful.

The second sonata dates from only two years after the first but a lot had changed for Grieg in that time, both professionally and personally. He was achieving a reputation as the leading Norwegian composer and had married his cousin Nina Hagerup. The Sonata No. 2 is both more mature and more Norwegian than No. 1. There is also a greater sense of questioning in the emotional content. The second and third movements are also notable for alternating folk-dance episodes with sections of great seriousness, perhaps a pre-figurement of the third sonata. This sonata was also a great favorite of Liszt. Our duo handles all these variations of tempo and mood expertly, especially in the quieter sections of the last two movements.

The Sonata No. 3 comes from the height of Grieg’s career. There is no evidence that Liszt’s death caused him to turn his mind to the violin sonata form after almost twenty years but it is certain that the emotional content of the sonata is largely melancholic, alternating with passages of deep yearning. It is also certain that Grieg handles his material with a skill and seriousness almost unequalled among his works. Unfortunately, I found that Urioste and Poster don’t provide enough contrast between the sonata’s three movements in what is otherwise a stirring performance.

Overall, though, this disc is demonstrates the vitality and commitment of the players and I hope Urioste and Poster will consider recording other sonatas such as the Franck of the three Brahms.

William Kreindler

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