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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Sonata in F major (1838) [28:49]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op.56 (1932) [16:58]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Salut d’amour, Op.12 [3:50]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata in F major, Op.8 (1865) [21:41]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
La Gitana [3:51]
Netanel Draiblate (violin)
Lura Johnson (piano)
Luigi Mazzocchi (violin) (Prokofiev)
rec. June 2012, Waetjen Auditorium, Cleveland State University, Ohio
AZICA ACD-71283 [75:02]

By seeking what the booklet notes term ‘geographical and stylistic diversity’ in his choices of repertoire, violinist Netenel Draiblate has constructed a programme sporting what is termed ‘relative rarities’ with two encore staples. It’s certainly true that Grieg’s First Violin Sonata is more often encountered on disc than in the concert hall, though it’s hardly unknown there. Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins has been relatively well served on disc, as well, but depends on catholic programming to work on the stage – usually in a chamber context. But Mendelssohn’s early F major sonata is very much a rarity both on disc and in on the recital stage.

This last was composed in 1838 and shouldn’t be confused with the earlier Sonata in F of 1820 – an amazingly precocious effort even for Mendelssohn – or the F minor of 1825, which earned status as his Opus 4. It’s a well-proportioned work, though the opening is on quite an extended canvas. The centrepiece is the Adagio, in which a restrained chorale figure on the piano encourages a rich lied to emerge on the violin. It has a real sense of lyric beauty and is well conveyed in this affectionate, slightly small-scaled performance. The finale, deft and buoyant, encourages good interchanges between the two instruments although it’s not the most distinctively Mendelssohnian of movements. Prokofiev’s sonata sees Draiblate joined by Venezuelan violinist Luigi Mazzocchi for a deft and thoughtful performance. Dynamics are coolly effective and the ensemble refreshingly Gallic-sounding; not for nothing, as this was one of the last works Prokofiev wrote in the West, penned for performance in Paris.

Lura Johnson returns for the remainder of the programme. This includes Grieg’s F major sonata – it shares a key with Mendelssohn’s – and the two small pieces by Elgar and Kreisler. This is a sensitive performance of the Grieg though it is a little low-key and lacks a bit of brio here and there. To be more explicit it is mix of low-key and slightly outsize in places, a strange combination. The outer movements are, as a result, a touch devitalised, though the central one isn’t. Oscar Shumsky’s recording on Biddulph offers a different point of view and one I much prefer but even back in the 1960s, when they recorded it, Alan Loveday and Leonard Cassini showed how a tauter tempo and scaled gestures were more appropriate.

Still, this is by no means an unsympathetic performance. I do find both the small pieces, however, too elastic in rubato and rather too inert.

This is most valuable for the Mendelssohn, which offers a revealing slant on his youthful contribution to the violin and piano repertoire, however much it has been subsequently largely ignored.

Jonathan Woolf