Hans HUBER (1852-1921)
Violin Concerto No 2 in D minor (1885?) [18:12]
Paul JUON (1872-1940)
Violin Concerto No 1 in B minor, Op.42 (1908/9) [36:49]
Maria Solozobova (violin)
Collegium Musicum Basel/Kevin Griffiths
rec. 2016, Music Hall Stadtcasino Basel
SONY CLASSICAL 80358 118320 [55:15]
I have not heard any music by either of these two composers, although I have had my eye on a great value 5 CD boxed set of Huber’s complete symphonies. Recorded by Sterling Records, they are collectively reviewed here by Jonathan Woolf and here by Rob Barnett. As for Paul Juon, CPO have been systematically issuing recordings of his chamber music and more recently a CD of some orchestral pieces, reviewed by Rob Barnett here. Sterling Records have also issued two CDs of his orchestral music, reviewed by Rob Barnett here and by Stephen Greenbank here. In digression, a word about the Swedish Sterling label – I only possess 11 of their CDs, and for some hard to fathom reason, only now, whilst writing this review, have I looked at their web-site. It is a veritable cornucopia of unsung music, and (financially) I fear that I shall be forced to study it in more detail. There is also a recording of Piano Music on Toccata Classics reviewed by Jonathan Woolf here and assorted CD’s of other pieces,
This CD has received an earlier review here by Bob Stevenson, and since he has presented both Huber and Juon’s biographical data as well as the history of these two concertos, there is little point in me repeating it. My initial surprise at Sony Music making a recording of two violin concertos by obscure Swiss composers was tempered by discovering that the recording itself was made by Tempo Musika of Switzerland, and has been distributed by Sony Music of Korea!
We really do live in an interconnected world.
The Huber is not as interesting as the Juon. It is mildly unusual in being in one continuous movement, and has a promising opening few bars with quite a nice melody. The composer had the good sense to re-introduce this theme towards the end of the work although I fear that most of what has gone before is not thematically all that memorable. Huber has ensured that there is a good mix of fast and slow music, with the soloist given opportunity to show off her technique. Consequently, she has been able to do her considerable best in presenting us with the work, and the recording (as in the Juon) has her placed in a pleasant acoustic, not too forwardly balanced against the excellent orchestra.
The Juon concerto was composed (it would seem) about twenty years after the Huber. He was educated along with Rachmaninov, having been born in Russia of Swiss and German parents. I think that it is a work that repays repeated listening, because most of it does not initially strike the ear in a memorable way. It is in three movements, with the first at nearly 20 minutes being longer by over 2 minutes than the two others combined. In fact, I found that the first movement outstays its welcome, despite an unusual opening in which orchestral plucked strings accompany the soloist. The rest of the movement just wanders around the place, with one unmemorable section following its predecessor. I currently find it to be the least attractive of the three movements, but given my response to the remainder of the concerto, I intend to listen to it again after a few weeks have elapsed.
The second movement repays repeated listening, (as may the first, I suppose, if you have the time or patience). Marked Romanze. Andante, it is a sad, rather wistful affair, which briefly becomes a little livelier before returning to its unusual main melody. This is a tune which its resourceful composer mildly stretches and elaborates during the course of the movement, returning to the original form towards the end. It is shared between the soloist and orchestra in a gentle but hauntingly effective way. I particularly like the flute singing its first couple of bars at 2’15”, and then the violin elaborating a few seconds later - very, very beautiful. I have to confess to not reacting very much to the movement on first or even second hearing, but now, having listened to the movement again and again, I have been completely won over.
The last movement begins jauntily, the violin dancing along whilst the orchestra bounces in and out of prominence. A brief relaxation at 1’45” soon graduates into faster music with the first orchestral tutti at 2’40”. This lasts a few seconds, when the most unusual and effective part of the movement begins – a slow, haunting melody sung by the violin, then horn with the orchestra, with a continuous drumbeat providing a real rhythmic focus to the music. Simple but very effective. The composer then gives the soloist some fireworks with which to dazzle us, whether lightly accompanied or solo, and then we are into the home strait, with the expected virtuoso ending.
I am glad that the responsibility of having write this review forced me to listen and re-listen to both works on this intriguing disc. I admit that the Huber is unlikely to attract my interest much in the future, but Paul Juon? I shall be investigating the long first movement again as well as the other recordings of his orchestral music that are appearing – this unusual concerto has made me wonder what other interesting pieces he wrote.
The overall title of the disc is ‘Une Révélation’ – well, I could just about agree to that description if applied to the Juon, and the soloist, Maria Solozobova joins the ranks of the many new young virtuoso female violinists that seem to appear with great regularity on CD releases. The booklet gives us biographical information about Ms Solozobova, the conductor, orchestra and the two composers. It says little or nothing about the concertos presented.
Previous review: Bob Stevenson