Strauss’ violin sonata was written when he was barely 23 and stands at a juncture in his composing life. Brahms and Beethoven influenced his very early works and we was at this point moving towards Liszt and Wagner, who would be more strongly his models the rest of his life. The three-movement work is optimistic in mood and full of heroic themes. The second movement – an andante entitled Improvisation – is a disguised homage to Beethoven – using form, motifs, melodies, key structure derived from that master. A lovely melody of the last movement seems to be prophetic of some to appear in his operas later.
Enescu’s violin sonata is darker and more serious than Strauss’. In fact the composer’s own notes describe a harrowing scenario having to do with the struggle of the Roumanians during WW II. Enescu’s challenge to himself was to join folk music of his culture with classical art music, and not have the result sound like a compromise. He succeeded mightily with an exciting work which integrates the classical violin-piano sonata form with gypsy music, Roumanian folk music and Jewish klezmer music. The composer even used quarter-tones in the work. Listen closely to this work and you may not feel Pablo Casals’ praise for Enesco is so far over the top: “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart.”
Young violinist Holthe and pianist Aspaas have been performing these two works in concert for some time and feel they have been milestones in their development as instrumentalists. They began collaborating in l991. The Norwegian label 2L has the highest standards in recording and presentation. The jewel box alternative package is decorated with Gustav Klimt artwork which seems most appropriate to the music.
– John Sunier