“Eastern Impressions” = SERGEI PROKOFIEV: Violin Sonata Op. 94bis; LEOS JANACEK: Violin Sonata; BELA BARTOK: Rhapsody No. 1 Sz 86; PANCHO VLADIGEROV: Bulgarian Rhapsody “Vardar” Op. 16 – Kathrin ten Hagen, v./ Christina Wright-Ivanova, p. – ARS multichannel SACD ARS 38147, 59:01 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
In the first 27 seconds of the opening movement of Prokofiev’s Sonata Op. 94bis, the young virtuoso Kathrin ten Hagen displays an astounding propensity for staying with notes throughout a phrase; combined with her wide range of inflection, nuance and color, with which she shades every note in every phrase, the result is art at its most intimate levels which also scales well when size is called for, and attitude, as at the beginning of the final movement, Allegro con brio.
The Boston-based Wright-Ivanova is an ideal partner, in step at every measure with her easy command and colorful sound palette; their coupling in the second movement Scherzo is totally delicious, while their simplicity in the movement’s brief interludes is oddly thrilling. Like ten Hagen, Wright-Ivanova shows throughout that while she can handle sheer virtuosity with no problems, she also loves to tackle bunches of notes.
Though Janacek’s only Violin Sonata was written three decades earlier–it was started before WWI in fact–it inhabits an entirely different world, entirely characteristic of the composer’s ultimate inability to create a unique style with his enormously original musical imagination; ten Hagen, however, catches the composer’s exultation in this conundrum and follows his every impulse initially with great delicacy, then in headlong passages of passion and speed, and in doing so takes her 2008 Pierre Dalphin without complaint to its limits.
The recording was made at the Immanuelskirche, a former Lutheran Church in Wuppertal, near Düsseldorf, now become a concert hall; built in 1869, it has just the right soaring proportions and minimalist walls to give free rein to the instruments’ and the music’s full range without having to force the sound. Daniel Knaack has provided valuable liner notes in the form of a dialogue about language and history and music between he and the two musicians, with one or two technical tips and tricks along the way.