Violin Sonata No.1 op.73, Violin Sonata No.3 op.128 and Violin Sonata No.4 Chromatische Sonate in einem Satz op.129
Ariadne Daskalakis, violin & Roglit Ishay, piano
Tudor 7122 2004 DDD 71:37
Once again, Tudor and cpo go head to head. Not content with releasing competing recordings of some of the symphonies, string quartets and works for violin and piano, we now have the prospect of parallel complete sets of the violin sonatas. With so much unrecorded Raff, it seems a waste of scarce resources, but we should at least be pleased that both companies think that the market for Raff's music is worth fighting over. This well-filled disk presents us with three of the five sonatas and sees the recording premiere of the most unusual of them - the one movement Sonata No.4.
Daskalakis and Ishay are up against formidable competition in cpo's Turban and Nemtsov. Their three disks, featuring the first three sonatas and other violin and piano music by Raff, contain top notch performances, but Tudor's other duo of Paetsch Neftel and Le Van have already demonstrated that there's plenty of room for alternative interpretations of quality. Luckily, the Swiss label have come up with another talented pairing which is capable of matching the virtuosity of the cpo team. Their technical ability is exemplary - everything in these complex and demanding works seems well within their range.
Their interpretations of both the first and third sonatas are altogether warmer and less edgy than those of Turban and Nemtsov, and this is particularly noticeable in the more turbulent Violin Sonata No.1. Daskalakis' playing is altogether sweeter, so much so that the stormy first movement loses some of the drama with which Turban imbued it, but it gains a romantic glow. The Tudor pair take the fast second movement rather slower and as a result it strays just a little too close to salon music. Slower too is the slow movement, but this time it is to the music's advantage, as the yearning quality seems all the more heartfelt. The finale is played with a beguiling lightness - the lilting phrases around 3:50 and 7:00 are a joy. Although this work is a fiddler's piece, Roglit Ishay plays with sensitivity throughout. Her contribution in the third movement, for example, is less deliberate and more lyrical than Nemtsov's; she builds the music to the central climax persuasively.
The differences between Daskalakis/Ishay and Turban/Nemtsov are less marked in the Violin Sonata No.3 (which is programmed third on this CD), largely because Turban himself adopts a softer tone for this more carefree work. Once again, the Tudor team take longer over it - about two and a half minutes in this case, most of which is accounted for by a broader approach to the first movement. Theirs is a very romantic interpretation - just listen to those violin/piano echoes around 2:45. Ishay in particular seems to be in her element here. The Allegro Assai second movement rattles along well enough. The brittleness, which added spice to Turban and Nemtsov's reading, is missing however. The slow movement's atmosphere in this recording is hard to pin down - the imploring quality given to it by the Germans is largely absent. Here it seems to be more episodic; its passages of serenity interrupted by moments of angst. There is little to choose between the two recordings in the finale - they are equally jolly and uncomplicated.
For the time being, Daskalakis and Ishay have the field to themselves in the one movement Violin Sonata No.4. It has an almost improvisatory character, reminiscent of its piano equivalent, the Fantasie-Sonate. The quarter of an hour length means that Raff doesn't hang around - strong ideas tumble out in quick succession in this powerful and highly romantic work. The piano has a consistently more prominent role than in the other two works on the disk, and here Ishay comes into her own, partnering Daskalakis' passionate playing with pianism of strength and vigour. All in all, a very satisfying performance of a fine work.
The recording engineers have conjured up a warm and well-balanced ambiance, appropriate to these romantic readings. The insert notes by Eckhardt van den Hoogen are gratifyingly light on standard Raff biography and concentrate instead on the music, although his speculation that the Fourth Sonata might have been a dry run for a violin concerto isn't persuasively argued. All in all, this is a set of rewarding performances which, although not supplanting those of Turban and Nemtsov, provide warmer and more romantic alternatives of equal technical merit. Recommended
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