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Duo Virtuoso II Maurice RAVEL (1875 - 1937)
Sonata for Violin and Cello (1920-22) [18:55] Arthur HONEGGER (1892 - 1955)
Sonatina for Violin and Cello (1932) [14:18] Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894 - 1942)
Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) [16:39]
Elaris Duo (Larisa Elisha (violin), Steven Elisha (cello))
rec. Sprague Hall, Yale University School of Music, New Haven, 2016 MSR CLASSICS MS1526 [49:52]
The concept behind this disc is very good and well thought out, especially since when one thinks of twentieth century music for violin and cello you automatically think of the Duo by Zoltán Kodály. However, here the Elaris Duo present three, to some extent, lesser known work, all of which were completed within ten years of each other during the inter-war period.
The first, and best known of these in the Sonata by Ravel, what began in 1920 as a single movement homage to Debussy, who had died in 1918, morphed into a four movement work two years later, but retained its dedication to the memory of his older compatriot, and was premiered on the 6th of April 1922 by Hélčne Jourdan-Morthange and Maurice Maréchal. Whilst the work has never achieved the fame of some of the composer’s other chamber music, I have always enjoyed it and thought it deserved greater acknowledgement, that being said, this is my third version, Eleonora and Yuli Turovsky for Chandos (CHAN8358) give a very pleasing account of the piece and also of the Honegger. More recently Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott for Orfeo (C902161A) have deservedly taken the plaudits, with their performance of the Ravel, and of the Schulhoff, standing out here. In both these recordings the performance is a little more secure than the Elaris Duo’s, especially in the second and forth movements where the violin sound can on occasion sound a little brash.
The Elaris Duo sound more secure and at home in the following two works. I have greatly admired the music of Honegger and his Sonatina has long be a favourite of mine, ever since I heard Dong-Suk Kang and Raphael Wallfisch’s excellent performance for Timpani (1C1009) in the mid 1990’s, this disc which formed the second part of the companies survey of the composers complete chamber music (4C1079) had me hooked from the first time I heard it. The Elaris Duo’s performance had a similar effect on me, with the sonorities between the two instruments being expertly brought to the fore by both pairs of performers with very little to choose between them, however Kang and Wallfisch’s performance of the work is a little more insightful and remains my favourite, although, it is I think, no longer available through the distributor, so the Elaris Duo make a first rate alternative.
The least known of the works presented here is the Schulhoff, a work which fits well with the others presented on this disc. Thankfully the music of Schulhoff has enjoyed a mini revival recently, there have been some fine recordings, all of which showing what a great loss to the world of twentieth century music his death was. This recording sits well here; it is given a strong performance by Elaris’, which if not quite as good as Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott, runs them very close indeed.
The recorded sound is very good, as are the booklet note that describe the works presented here as “remarkable jewels.” Sadly these notes are unaccredited, but they are detailed and informative. At less than fifty minutes this by today’s standard is a short disc, and all the comparative options are well over the hour and offer additional couplings. But if you just want a single recording offering these three works, you can’t go very wrong by buying this disc.
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