Debussy/Ravel/Saint-Saens

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy/Ravel/Saint-Saens
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Violin Sonata; Violin Sonata; Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor
PERFORMER: Kyoko Takezawa (violin); Rohan de Silva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61386 2 DDD
So strong is this violinist’s personality that her encounters with equally stubborn music are like a confrontation. The milder the composer’s character, the more successful the performance. Saint-Saens usually imposes a Classical sense of balance between the players, but doesn’t often inspire the nervous energy and momentum, the finesse and vigour, that these two deliver. It’s exactly the sort of music that gains everything from being given 110 per cent. Ravel, writing his Sonata in the Twenties, forced musicians to be more distanced and calculated than they might be in his earlier works. This draws a quiet, quizzical sparkle from de Silva, more enjoyable than Takezawa’s suppressed eloquence — though she plays the stylised blues theme with a fine sense of mood and intonation, and the driven finale is cumulatively exciting.

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With Debussy you are listening to the violinist first, the violin second, the music last. Extremes of contrast rule: violent attacks, languid responses. I admire the intensity, but couldn’t live with mannerisms like the opening with its little hesitation, its huge pause punctuated by a sniff, its holdback, speed-up and settling into tempo. And that’s just the first phrase. The booklet opens out into a poster which shows the violinist perched, alone, on a ledge halfway up a wall, like a post-modern exhibit in a traditional gallery— about right, really. Robert Maycock