Bartók Sonata for Solo Violin

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COMPOSERS: Bela Bartók
LABELS: Brilliant Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin
WORKS: Sonata for solo violin; 44 Duos for two violins
PERFORMER: Antal Zalai, Valery Oistrakh (violins)


This is the second instalment in Antal Zalai’s warmly recorded survey of Bartók’s complete music for violin. It combines the late and monumental Sonata for solo violin with the 44 Duos, a sequence of highly effective didactic pieces composed in the early 1930s. Hearing the two works side by side proves illuminating. On superficial acquaintance, the Sonata seems to eschew the obvious absorption of eastern European folk idioms that are part and parcel of the Duos. But the styles explored in both works in reality stem from the same sources. Certainly Zalai conjures up a strongly ethnic sound, even in the stylised neo-Baroque melodic patterns of the opening Tempo di ciaccona. Yet, whereas other players opt for a more high-voltage conception of both this movement and the final frenetic Presto, Zalai adopts a strongly lyrical stance throughout. It’s an approach that really pays dividends in the melancholic threnody which makes up the Melodia third movement.

Barely four seconds of silence separate the last notes of the Sonata and the first of the Duos. One might wish for a little more time to draw breath after such a challenging and uncompromising work, but the gentler tones of the Duos are performed here with grace and humour, projecting an astonishing variety of moods.


Erik Levi