SIBELIUS Music for Violin and PIano
These national stereotypes are nothing if not persistent. In direct contrast to the cool, tight, conscientious tone offered by Baiba Skride (Orfeo, 10/16) in Sibelius’s Four Pieces, Op 78, the Portuguese violinist Carlos Damas comes at the works with a big, broad sound (especially down low), a prominent vibrato that infiltrates even the shortest of notes and more Catholic fervour than Lutheran sobriety in the ‘Religioso’. I love the way Damas digs deep in the ‘Rigaudon’ so you hear his instrument rattle, but elsewhere the various noises off, squeaks, scrapes and breathing can become wearing.
As can Damas’s consistently prominent, in-your-face tone. He sounds determined not to reflect the reticence and detachedness of the Sonatine’s opening Lento – fine, but it seems less a point of interpretation and more Damas’s general modus operandi. Surely the ethereal opening to the Sonatine’s second movement and the coy sign-off of the third need a lower volume, while the first of the five Danses champêtres needs more mystery and less obviousness?
The showpiece that forms the first of the Five Pieces, Op 81, is far better suited to Damas’s swashbuckling approach; he relishes its virtuosity while pushing and pulling deliciously at the tempo with his pianist Anna Tomasik. There is more of a tendency towards intimacy in the second-movement Rondino, but the odd shapes and harmonies of the final Menuetto need more clarification and Damas can seem wrong-footed by some of Sibelius’s passagework, leading him to rush. A more than capable violinist; but I for one want more exploration and greater sensitivity in these slight works from 1915 24, while an hour in the company of Damas’s full-on, slightly fizzy tone can redden the ears.