Busoni, Respighi

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Busoni,Respighi
WORKS: Adagio con variazioni
PERFORMER: Duo Pepicelli
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555691
There are plenty of rival versions of Busoni’s two numbered violin sonatas – and even a couple of the little neo-Mozartian C major work, composed just before his tenth birthday – but they have seldom been given with such passion and commitment as Lara Lev and Matti Raekallio display on this new Finlandia release. The slow music may cut no deeper than in the excellent Per Enoksson and Kathryn Stott CD (BIS), but the dash and brilliance of the fast movements, and especially Raekallio’s negotiation of Busoni’s complex piano writing at such moments, are beyond my previous experience of these works. The culminating Allegro deciso section of the Second Violin Sonata is stunning in its impact. Finlandia’s disc has just become the new benchmark. While Busoni’s violin compositions include in Sonata No. 2 one work of prime importance, his cello pieces, though more numerous, are of less consequence. The Duo Pepicelli’s programme includes compelling Bach and Liszt transcriptions but it is not, as the players seem to think, the ‘complete’ works for cello and piano (the cello version of the late Albumblatt No. 1 is lacking). The youthful Kleine Suite finds Busoni at his most severely Classical, but the extravagant Serenade has a flamboyant charm while the Finnish folksong variations, a memory of his time in Helsinki, is a strong and evocative piece well worth an occasional outing. Respighi’s early, Bach-influenced Adagio is an apt makeweight. The Pepicellis are manifestly accomplished musicians who invest everything they play with belief, and Francesco has a fine singing cello tone; still, though the performances are good, nothing catches fire in quite the way the Finns succeed in doing for the violin sonatas. A useful disc, though. Calum MacDonald

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