SCHUBERT: Complete Works for Violin and Piano = Sonata in A, “Duo,” D. 574; Rondo in B Minor, D. 895; Fantasy in C Major, D. 934; 3 Sonatinas – Arnold Steinhardt, violin/ Seymour Lipkin, piano – Newport Classics

by | Mar 8, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Complete Works for Violin and Piano = Sonata in A, “Duo,” D. 574; Rondo in B Minor, D. 895; Fantasy in C Major, D. 934; 3 Sonatinas – Arnold Steinhardt, violin/ Seymour Lipkin, piano – Newport Classics NCD 60174/2, 62:32; 52:32 ****:

Recorded at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, this disc offers the violin works by Franz Schubert, several of them conceived for his brother, Ferdinand, and Josef Slavik, a Czech virtuoso of the period. That the violinist in these efforts is Arnold Steinhardt only increases the nostalgia for this auditor, who grew up with the Guarneri String in residence at Harpur College, Binghamton, New York. Steinhardt has been a member of the distinguished Guarneri Quartet since 1964. In these collaborations with Seymour Lipkin, Steinhardt sounds much like Joseph Szigeti, with the same wiry tone and piercing drive that Szigeti projected, only with better technical control.

The Duo Sonata balances the dexterous parity of the two instruments, with simultaneously lighthearted and operatic excursions by way of riffs and melodic line. The last movement is all gemutlich Vienna cream, Lipkin‚s piano part a charming canter through sylvan glades. The same ease of application graces the Sonatina in D, 384, with its three-note germinal motif. A nice touch is to alternate the larger works with one each of the Sonatinas, the Romantic impulses with the Mozaertean emphasis on elegant display. The passionate 1826 Rondeau in B Minor was a favorite of Joseph Szigeti, Yehudi Menuhin, and Franco Gulli. Its heraldic Andante introduction gives way to some deft figures, playful and virtuosic. The step-wise melody that dominates the middle of the piece communicates ingenuous simplicity.

The sheer girth of the A Minor Duo, D. 385 belies the designation “Sonatina” and combines lyric and structural elements of Mozart and early Beethoven. Liquid, transparent execution from both principals here. The Andante of this piece enjoys a special repose. The G Minor Sonatina, D. 408, while eminently Mozartean, attempts to create an equal partnership between the instruments, the first movement opening with declamations and responses in each part. The Menuetto, especially, possesses an Old World charm, jaunty and refined, with a touch of Haydn. An unassuming gentility reigns in the final Allegro moderato, occasionally sizzling but more content to bask in the sun. 

The big work is Schubert’s Fantasia in C Major, D. 934, with its archetypal (later, Lisztian) four-movement structure and its variations on the composer’s own song, Wei mir gegruesst. The piano ripples in limpid delights at first, Steinhardt’s intoning a plaintive song above the waters. The intimate, salon effect is palpable; the gestures are small until the Allegretto, where the vivid ornaments begin to fly. The main section, Andantino, devotes itself to the song, a tender, resigned lament. The harmonic labyrinths lead us, after some cyclic recollections of the opening material, to the grand finale, the regal Allegro vivace whose innate power breaks through in long-withheld, fiery strokes. Tremolandi in high harmonics are merely one magical effect in this resplendent piece, the crowning work in a catalogue of select beauties.

— Gary Lemco

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