Violin Sonata in B minor, P110 (1917) [25:18]
Violin Sonata in D minor (1897) [20:16]
Five Pieces (1906) [19:27]
Six Pieces P31 (1901-05): No. 4 and 5 [7:12]
Tanja Becker-Bender (violin)
Péter Nagy (piano)
rec. November 2011, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin
HYPERION CDA67930 [72:16]
|Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Violin Sonata in B minor, P110 (1917) [25:54]
Six Pieces P31 (1901-05): Nos. 2, 4 and 5 [11:03]
Violin Sonata Op.18 (TrV 151) (1887) [28:51]
Tasmin Little (violin)
Piers Lane (piano)
rec. May 2012, Potton Hall, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN10749 [65:50]
Two recordings of the Respighi Sonata in B minor appear in performances
that pursue different programmatic agendas. Tasmin Little on
Chandos allies it with Strauss’s youthful romantic effusion
whilst Tanja Becker-Bender places it securely in the context
of Respighi’s other works for violin. This will certainly
have a significant bearing on each disc’s appeal.
The tonal production of the two fiddle players could hardly
be more different. Little draws on a rich palette of colours
whilst Becker-Bender employs a more circumscribed and edgier
sound. Both however have clearly thought-through approaches.
From the start Little’s charismatic slides and intense
vibrato give the music a rather florid romanticist appeal. Her
phraseology is quite elastic but her passion is committed. Becker-Bender
is tauter, cleaner in respect of expressive devices and more
linear. Little’s is the more concertante performance and
if this is how you like your Respighi, this will appeal mightily.
She can be volatile in the outer movements, and is full of confiding
warmth and pathos in the slow movement, aligning it strangely
close to the ethos, at least, of Elgar’s almost contemporaneous
sonata. Little varies her vibrato speed here wisely and well,
and Piers Lane’s adroit pianism is another plus. Lane
takes the Passacaglia finale at a rather more rapid tempo than
Péter Nagy’s ten-league-boots approach, which I
think works better. Yet the Becker-Bender/Nagy also impresses
in its own very much more abrasive and sinuous way, smaller
scaled and less confiding though it may be. Their recording
is more close up than the one from Chandos-catching a lot of
Becker-Bender’s sniffing-whereas the Chandos is, for me,
cut at slightly too low a level, so you have to turn up the
volume. In the end the choice is between Little’s big-boned
(arguably in places, like the opening, too mannered) approach
which is expressive, richly coloured and intense, and Becker-Bender’s
steelier, more monochromatic and cutting way. Given the choice,
I’d choose Little.
Little and Lane follows in the distinguished shoes of Chung
and Zimerman (DG) in selecting the Strauss as a companion sonata.
It’s difficult to avoid a gear change in the opening movement
if you start it a little too sedately, which is how most duos
do these days. Violinists like Heifetz (who made possibly the
greatest recording of the Respighi B minor) and Neveu tended
to ensure that phrases coalesced rather more sinuously. But
Little’s performance is of a piece with that of her Respighi:
thoroughly committed romantic playing, with a (possible) surfeit
of expressive finger position changes, rich vibrato and lyric
impulses: note her and Lane’s keen ear for dynamic variance
in the slow movement in particular. She ends with some more
Respighi, three of the Six Pieces P31 from the first decade
of the twentieth-century, of which the Hyperion duo plays two.
In the Serenata Little is again warmer, Becker-Bender-one
rather queasy moment apart-more externalised I also prefer the
British player in the Valse caressante where her rhythm
is the more convincing.
Meanwhile, in her disc, Becker-Bender plays Respighi’s
early 1897 D minor sonata, a strongly Brahmsian affair, and
does so with structural integrity and fine ensemble assurance.
What I miss is the kind of warmth Little brought to the later,
greater work. Here Becker-Bender’s terse tone production
precludes a necessary degree of affection. She also plays the
Five Pieces of 1906, little character charmers of no great intellectual
pretensions but which sit well under the fingers. These are
generally convincing but now and then they sound a bit highly
strung: the Madrigale for instance is too highly polished
and lacks relaxation. Stylistically, Rodolfo Bonucci and Pietro
Spada on Arts [47138-2] are more convincing.
Given the performance strengths and weaknesses, choice, certainly
in the Respighi B minor, will depend a lot on programming considerations.
see also review of the Chandos release by Rob