Respighi; Rota; Strauss, R Violin Sonatas
“The Violin Sonata around 1900” is the subtitle of Challenge Classics’ new release but this is both stylistically and chronologically misleading. The dates of the Strauss (1887) and Respighi (1917) stretch the concept already to breaking-point but that of Nino Rota’s beautifully crafted little work – 1936-37 – snaps it remorselessly. The Rota, placed second on the disc, is more a sonatina given the company but its 14 lyrical minutes make for the finest contrast imaginable between the two weightier items.
The Respighi is rather better known than the Rota and almost twice its size, yet shares the same sense of enjoyment in melody in an intimate setting. Unlike Rota, though, Respighi shows off his structural muscle in a work – written just after Pini di Roma – that is both true sonata as well as lyrical dialogue. Van Keulen and Brautigam are at their finest here (the Rota not really taxing them), shaping the themes equally adroitly as sonata elements as well as tunes to be relished for their own sake. The piano sounds a touch tinny at the close of the opening Moderato but otherwise this rendition is flawless.
This is the third recording of Strauss’s Sonata to be released in the past half-year and competition is fierce. The newcomer has greater sureness of touch and verve than Poulet’s and Berlinskaïa’s account but while different in feel to that of Crow and Stewart does not outstrip it (Repin and Berezovsky remain first choice). Generally excellent sound as well as the imaginative programming makes this a fine addition to the catalogue.