Strauss • Respighi: Violin Sonatas
Richard Strauss’s early Violin Sonata is so full of youthful rhetoric and so obviously pines for the colours of a full orchestra rather than the piano, that it’s often a difficult work to bring off convincingly. But Tasmin Little and Piers Lane turn in one of the most satisfying performances I’ve heard. Their judicious choice of tempos allows the music to breathe naturally. They also display an intense sympathy with Strauss’s melodic style, especially in their delicate and atmospheric account of the slow movement.
The Strauss is coupled on this recording with a remarkably eloquent interpretation of Respighi’s Sonata in B minor. This is also a rather problematic work, in its uneasy mix of Italianate lyricism and Germanic contrapuntal elaboration. Little and Lane’s relaxed yet focused reading of the first two movements is balanced by a thrusting, even aggressive account of the passacaglia finale: with its deep piano octaves, this is Respighi at his most Brahmsian. Little’s full‑toned bravura in this movement reminds us why this Sonata was a favourite of Jascha Heifetz, and Lane has to work just as hard. The three numbers from Respighi’s early Sei pezzi for violin and piano are essentially salon music, but of a refined and superior kind. They make for a very enjoyable filler.