JANACEK: Violin Sonata; GRIEG: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 13; FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A Major – Vadim Repin, violin/ Nikolai Lugansky, piano – DGG 477 8794, 63:39 [Distr. By Universal] ****:
Recorded July 2010 in Berlin, the Vadim Repin/Nikolai Lugansky duo turns to viscerally romantic repertory in this well-honed disc, although some will find their playing over-ripe in some instances. The expressionistic Sonata by Leos Janacek (c. 1914-1921) generates a hothouse intensity from these players, in which audacity and the savoring of Janacek’s often convulsive colors dominates, eschewing the chastity that often colors performances of the work by Josef Suk and Christian Tetzlaff. But Repin’s application of broad and suddenly spare vibrato to his gorgeous 1743 “Bonjour” Guarneri del Gesu instrument adds a decidedly nervous passion to the throes Janacek offers himself. The composer noted the sound of “steel in my head” at its time of composition–the outbreak of WW I–yet the piece ends softly, having survived its often jarring excursions into bitter places. That Repin and Lugansky address the work with ardor and affection resonates from the first bars.
Grieg’s 1867 Sonata No. 2 in G is dedicated to violinist Johan Svendsen and expresses a freshness and optimism towards experience, despite the various tears that occasionally must be shed. Strong national feeling runs through the piece, the kind of sunny folklore that ever marks Grieg’s association with the halling as his perpetual mode of expression. In terms of sonata-form, the contrasting themes rarely proceed except by sudden interjections of feeling. The ventures into the minor mode educe some exquisite colors from pianist Lugansky, a finished tone that imposes a natural serenity in the midst of decidedly Norwegian flourishes. In the Allegretto tranquillo, the piano more obviously imitates a strummed lute or guitar. The feverish element that Repin injects, again, may not attract auditors having been beguiled in this work by Heifetz or Dumay. The last movement, Allegro animato, provides Repin a vivacious dance in rustic and carillon colors in which he can alter his vibrato ad libitum, a habit not to everyone’s taste. The outpouring of melody, however, accosts us with such lush vitality–and in brilliant sound courtesy of engineer Martin Litauer–that we must succumb to the passion of the moment.
Repin and Lugansky attempt something like chastity for the opening movement of the 1886 Franck Sonata, allowing its natural interior passion to carry it along without undue histrionics. The Allegro movement discards any veneer of restraint and opts for explosive passion, a blazing frisson having been reached between external and interior storms of the heart. The sweeping transition to the heart-on-the-sleeve approach may not suit demure tastes, but few can deny the persuasive sincerity of the performance. The Recitativo points to Repin’s possible work in Bach partitas and sonatas, while the ensuing Fantasia invests an element of mysticism into the artists’ palette. A formal restraint abides in the final movement’s delicate canon, rendered here with sweetly inflected lyricism that will, inevitably, yield to fiercer affections. The level of technical and emotional commitment for these expressive works has never been in doubt.
— Gary Lemco
A cascading sweep of keyboard miniatures