PROKOFIEV Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
The Prokofiev violin repertoire has been very fruitfully tapped in recent times, and this new release of the two sonatas and the Five Melodies presents something of a dilemma. Not only have we had the Japanese violinist Lisa Oshima in a visceral performance of the First Sonata, but also Alina Ibragimova and Steven Osborne performed both of the sonatas and the Melodies on a 2014 Hyperion disc, featured as Recording of the Month here in August that year. The distinguished Norwegian artists Elise Båtnes and Håvard Gimse offer a different perspective, but it is one that has firm stylistic grounding and a persuasive interpretative viewpoint of its own.
Båtnes and Gimse are recorded much more closely than Ibragimova and Osborne, but on top of that their playing has in general a sharper edge to the projection, which is by no means out of place in this music. One might, at first, question the measured tempo for the Moderato first movement of the Second Sonata, which adds well over a minute to the timing on the Ibragimova and Osborne disc. But on repeated listening it works, somehow bringing a touch of unease to the melody’s sultriness. In fact in the entire programme, while Ibragimova and Osborne offer telling insights into the music’s dynamic and emotional shading, the more forthright approach of Båtnes and Gimse has a valid point to make as well – not that they are in any way wanting when it comes to the allure of lyrical restraint, either in the sonatas or in the Five Melodies. Maybe this is not a decisive verdict, but I shall happily live with both versions.