Hungarian Violin Sonatas = DOHNANYI: Violin Sonata in C Sharp Minor, Op. 21; HUBAY: Sonata Romantique in D, Op. 22; GOLDMARK: Violin Sonata in D, Op. 25 – Peter Csaba, violin/ Peter Frankl, piano – Praga

by | Dec 4, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Hungarian Violin Sonatas = DOHNANYI: Violin Sonata in C Sharp Minor, Op. 21; HUBAY: Sonata Romantique in D, Op. 22; GOLDMARK: Violin Sonata in D, Op. 25 – Peter Csaba, violin/ Peter Frankl, piano – Praga Multichannel SACD 250223, 79:21 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Long represented only by Ruggiero Ricci’s recording and the scarce 1952 version by the composer with Albert Spalding, the Dohnanyi (1877-1960) Violin Sonata in C Sharp Minor (1912) finds sympathetic response (4-6 December 205) in the collaboration of Peter Csaba (b. 1952) and veteran pianist Peter Frankl (b. 1935). Several commentators find a strong kinship between this muscular, dark work and the D Minor Sonata, Op. 108, by Johannes Brahms. A melancholy sweetness suffuses the second movement, even though its outer sections enjoys a luminous virtuosity. The Vivace assai reworks prior materials, adding this sometimes stormy brew to the list of cyclic contributions to Romantic chamber music. Csaba projects a long, gracious line and a warm tone – the Martinu Concert Hall of the Academy of Music, Prague providing a rich, vibrant acoustic for Frankl’s passionate keyboard part.

Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) is recalled for only a handful of works, like his The Queen of Sheba opera and the underperformed Rustic Wedding Symphony. His Violin Concerto used to be championed by Nathan Milstein. The Op. 25 Sonata in D Major (1874) is a big piece whose middle movement alone exceeds the length of whole Mozart sonatas. The opening Allegro moderato begins delicately; a series of upward scales then takes us on a rhythmic tour of the theme’s possibilities. The piano part is all ripples. The development proceeds according to strict sonata form, the metrics having become rather four-square. The bucolic, even rocking, nature of the writing might suggest Grieg. The huge Andante sostenuto projects an Hebraic quality, and it might be taken for a piece by Bruch or for Mendelssohn’s extended song. Energetic strokes for the Allegro molto vivace, another invocation of melody and phrase lengths reminiscent of Schumann and Grieg. Glistening playing from both parties, especially Frankl’s scintillating keyboard contribution.

Jeno Hubay (1858-1937) remains a key figure in Hungarian music, having led a major school of violin virtuosity. Favoring the German tradition, Hubays Op. 22 Romantic Sonata (1884) clearly reveals the influence of Schumann and Richard Strauss. Extremely lyrical in content, the violin sings, whistles, and trills in bucolic majesty in the opening Allegro. The declamatory and tumultuous impulses suggest that Hubay performed Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata with some regularity. The Adagio ma non tanto pours out a noble song over a passionate piano part that emanates Brahmsian power. Csaba invokes his rasping tone and idiosyncratic vibrato to poignant effect. The surround sound format does not lose the essential intimacy of much of these beguiling works. The final Allegro exerts both an easy gait and sudden, blistering energy that captivate our attention. Frankl’s ostinati are piercing and clear. Csaba’s wiry tone here reminds one distinctly of Joseph Szigeti. Both gypsy and modal harmonies abound, especially in the fiery last pages, so Liszt and Bartok remain close kin.

— Gary Lemco

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