WORKS: Violin Sonata (Vineyard); Violin Sonata; Nocturne; Three Preludes; Canzone
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin), André Previn (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 453 470-2
Listening to this amiable and generally well performed programme is rather like eating your way through a box of soft-centred chocolates: after a while, you long for something to get your teeth into. A bit nearer the mark than Jascha Heifetz’s mildly tasteless but entertaining transcription of Gershwin’s three piano Preludes is the rhythmically playful finale of Copland’s 1943 Sonata; but it is precisely here that André Previn’s playing for once lacks incisiveness. And on the last page of this piece, where the opening movement’s main theme makes a return, there are two passages Copland wanted played with the aid of the middle pedal, which sustains any notes struck and held as it is depressed, but allows subsequently played notes to remain detached.
Previn curiously bathes the entire passage conventionally with pedal. Previn’s own Sonata is, as one would expect, written with extreme professionalism, and it contains some striking melodic ideas; but the style is all too ready to lapse into a mawkishness of a kind that is notably avoided – for all its unashamed neo-Romanticism – by Samuel Barber’s stylish Canzone. Gil Shaham’s sweet-toned playing is a genuine asset throughout the disc, and the recorded sound is first-class. Misha Donat