Bartok; Schumann; Kreisler

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bartók • Schumann • Kreisler
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Sonata for Solo Violin; Violin Sonata No. 1 • Violin Sonata; Kinderszenen • Liebesleid; Schön Rosmarin
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Martha Argerich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 693 3992

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Martha Argerich’s musical partnership with Gidon Kremer goes back a long way, and their DG studio recordings of Bartók’s First Sonata and the Schumann D minor have been available for some time. These new performances come from a Berlin concert given in 2006, and what the Bartók in particular offers over and above their fine previous version is a sense of music-making caught on the wing.

It’s one of the longest and most demanding of all Bartók’s chamber works, and the playing here is spectacularly vivid and assured. The violin sounds close to the microphone – no doubt it needs to be, in order to compete with Argerich’s fiery playing – but that only serves to emphasise the unusual nature of the piece, in which the players seem to go their own separate ways throughout.

Rather less convincing is the Schumann D minor Sonata, where a tendency to play lyrical second subjects much slower than the remainder compromises the music’s strong organic unity. But there’s plenty left to enjoy: an impressive account of Bartók’s Solo Violin Sonata and two café masterpieces by Kreisler given as encores and tossed off with effortless elegance.

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And above all there is Argerich in Schumann’s Kinderszenen. Since she has all but given up playing solo works in public, her admirers will want to seize the opportunity of hearing this performance shot through with characteristic spontaneity. Misha Donat