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Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert

Van Dieren Chinese Symphony
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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Duo Sonata in A major, Op. 162, D. 574 (1817) [21:11]
Rondo in B minor, Op. 70, D. 895 Rondo brillant (1826) [14:04]
Fantasy in C major, Op. 159, D.934 (1828) [23:49]
Tomas Cotik (violin)
Tao Lin (piano)
rec. 3-5 September 2011, Gusman Concert Hall, Coral Gables, Florida, USA.
Schubert played both the violin and the piano, and the sense of natural music-making with the works in this recording stand as a testament to a skilled performer as well as the genius composer we all recognise today. 

The Duo Sonata D. 574 has appeared in versions for cello and piano, but the violin and piano original has an uplifting quality which is emphasised by Cotik and Lin’s lightness of touch. I’ve had a listen to a few alternatives online just to orientate myself, including Isaac Stern and Daniel Barenboim on Sony Classics and Lydia Mordkovitch and Gerhard Oppitz on Chandos, but this duo on Centaur pretty much ticks all the boxes. Cotik is perhaps less luxuriantly eloquent with the melody in the lovely Andantino movement, but is certainly expressive enough, and his clarity of colouring and dynamic allows the piano a more equal partnership than some. The recording is set in a not particularly resonant acoustic, but the Gusman Concert Hall certainly has enough space and air to make the sonorities of the instruments develop without swimming with resonance in quite the way Mordkovitch’s Chandos version does.
Tomas Cotik gives a sense of gipsy exuberance to Allegro vivace finale of D. 574, and there is some continuation of this in the opening of the ‘Rondo brillant’ which makes for a fine centrepiece in this nicely balanced programme. The changes in harmonic depth between this and the more youthful sounding Duo Sonata are notable, but it is with the Fantasy D. 934 that the real ‘late’ Schubert is most apparent, the opening almost making the leap to the romanticism of Schumann, and certainly possessing some of the enigmatic mysteries of works such as Die Winterreise. The violin, a symbol of domestic leisure and contentment, could probably never carry quite the same weight as words expressed by the human voice, and this Fantasy takes us into more areas of showmanship and concert exhibitionism than the best of Schubert’s songs. The technical demands of the piece can be felt in this performance but not to the point of any discomfort, and both Cotik and Lin serve the music very well indeed.
Tomas Cotik and Tao Lin form a very fine duo, and with new recording projects including work for Naxos this is clearly a team to watch. I am sure we will be hearing good things from them in the future. Meanwhile this superbly produced Schubert disc, while just one in a somewhat crowded market, comes warmly commended.
Dominy Clements