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Ernst BLOCH (1880-1959)
Violin Sonata No.2, Poème mystique (1924) [19:54]
Leoš JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata, JW V11/7 (1914, rev. 1921) [17:29]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Violin Sonata (1968) [30:57]
Midori (violin)
Ogur Aydin (piano)
rec. August 2012, WDR Funkhaus, Klaus von Bismark Saal
ONYX 4084 [2012]

In this disc Midori and Ogur Aydin couple two sonatas that are chronological near-neighbours with the much later Shostakovich sonata to form a triptych of contrasting expressive states. With Bloch we have rhapsodic ecstasy, with Janácek jagged passion leavened by intimacy, and with Shostakovich terse foreboding.

I like their approach to the contours of the Janácek. I’ve listened to Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner’s reading of this work on a Cedille disc (review to follow) and it strikes me that Midori and Aydin, who ostensibly do less with it, succeed in revealing more about it as a result. Their tempi are excellent – as good as you’ll find – and there is no tonal crudity or rhythmic distortion; they don’t let the music do more than it already does. Midori’s dead centre-of-the-note playing is highly impressive and the rhythmic vitality the ensemble builds up is first-class. I would only add that Midori just misses the confidential reflectiveness in the finale, amidst the resinous attaca of its free-wheeling drive, a quality that never eluded Josef Suk in his recordings of it, studio or live. Even she can’t match his magisterial vivacity in the Allegretto. Nevertheless, this is a fine reading.

For Bloch she and Aydin turn to the Poème mystique. Midori brings her celestial phrasing to this work, ensuring that its rhapsodic core is subject to incremental passion – not too much too early, in other words. If one finds Midori and Aydin less immediately earthy and communicative than, say, Elsa Grether and Ferenc Vizi on Fuga 711 stick with them. The pianistic colour is all here, and the violin is beautifully calibrated to generate intensity without show. That said, I wouldn’t be without Grether, who is not well-known but who is an excellent Bloch player.

Perhaps the hardest of the three works - because it’s the most gruelling and difficult to decode – is the Shostakovich, written for David Oistrakh whose recordings with Richter probe deep under its skin, especially the live one in the Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatoire in 1969. Frankly that level of identification is beyond all other duos but for a dedicated, authoritative reading this one works well. There could be a greater tensile investment sometimes – at points the mood seems indeterminate - but it rather fits with her other sonata performances; fine, maybe at points just a little cool.

These fine performances have been beautifully recorded in the WDR Funkhaus.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank