Bloch: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Nigun from Baal Shem; Nuit exotique

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COMPOSERS: Bloch
LABELS: Carlton
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Nigun from Baal Shem; Nuit exotique
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)Julian Milford (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 30366 00232
Ernest Bloch’s violin compositions are among his strongest, none more so than the First Sonata (1920), a highly ambitious piece of enormous bravura and energy which presents convincing modernist credentials in the way Bloch contrasts barbaric Bartókian piano-pounding with vast soaring lines. Sonata No. 2 (originally called Poème mystique) and the Nuit exotique (both 1924) are, as these titles suggest, more redolent of bejewelled oriental languor – but on a level of artistry that compares well with, for example, middle-period Szymanowski.

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Lydia Mordkovitch, a Szymanowski player of note, is a natural for Bloch’s wild Semitic passion and heady exoticism. She has all the necessary technique, a big sonorous tone and a remarkable range of colour, and Milford is an able partner, taking all his chances to shine in the meaty, flamboyant piano parts. It’s a good recording, though I miss the extra shade of resonance that Mordkovitch’s Chandos discs have had. Altogether this adds up to a powerful Bloch collection. The (anonymous) note-writer seems to have thought the whole Baal Shem suite was to be included, rather than just the popular ‘Nigun’ (superbly done, by the way), but I suppose the timing just wouldn’t allow. Calum MacDonald