Ravel’s music for solo violin is found here,
in pleasing performances which make this a compelling single CD collection.
While not the most prolific of composers, Ravel did create a legacy
that offers abundant discoveries to the discerning collector. None of
the music here ranks among his more famous compositions, and if the
two sonatas and the Tzigane
are better known than the remaining
items, all the music deserves our attention.
The world’s famous violinists are likely to record the Sonata
for violin and piano and perhaps the gypsy showpiece Tzigane
so the chief attraction here, and it is a significant one, is the new
disc’s very completeness. Among recent recordings those of Joshua
Bell (Sony 88697891822) and Tasmin Little (in a bargain priced 2CD set,
EMI 0858582) are typical in offering mixed programmes of French music
- the latter even includes orchestral works by Delius.
To begin with the Sonata. Neudauer here confirms her credentials in
a reading which compares well with the competition. The engineers capture
an excellent and atmospheric perspective, and her duo partner Paul Rivinius
is also heard to appropriate effect. The finale is a notorious example
of Ravel’s interest in the new (for him) idiom of jazz, and the
performers articulate this spirit splendidly.
The other major work in the collection is the Sonata for violin and
cello, whose name on the front cover of the disc is tucked underneath
the main title of ‘Complete Works for Violin and Piano’.
No matter if it sits oddly in terms of this overall description, it
is the ideal music to complete the disc, and for every conceivable reason.
The style is more serious, encouraged perhaps by the gathered sonorities
of the two stringed instruments. Neudauer with Julian Steckel articulates
the darker mood of the music across its four contrasted movements. The
experience of the whole is somehow more than the sum of the parts, just
as Ravel must have intended.
Of the shorter items, Tzigane
is the most substantial and the
best known. This was a showpiece for the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi,
which inevitably used the gypsy style in a brilliant pastiche. It fetaures
the techniques which are the stock-in-trade of the virtuoso: trills,
double-stopping, harmonics. As such the music is a long way from the
character of the contemporary Sonata for violin and cello, but that
is the point. The music displays a different aspect of Lana Neudauer’s
personality and of Ravel’s too.
Ravel clearly did not think the single movement sonata movement he completed
in 1897 was his best effort, and he suppressed it. The first performance
took place in his centenary year of 1975. As with any music by a great
composer, it is of interest to us now, though it does seem earnestly
long for its material. It was perhaps unwise to position it in pole
position as the first track on the disc, if such things matter. Of the
other short items, the Berceuse
the latter is particularly interesting because it found its true fame
as a movement of the orchestral Rapsodie Espagnole
While not intended as a disc to listen to in a single sitting, this
collection has an admirable completeness and the performances are first