Delius: Violin Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Delius
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Violin Sonatas
PERFORMER: Susanne Stanzeleit (violin), Gusztáv Fenyö (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572261

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The violin was Delius’s own instrument, and his four violin sonatas, spaced fairly equally through his career, are among his most personal utterances. ‘No. 0’, the early B major Sonata (1892) which Delius discarded after one private performance and was only revived long after his death, is fairly conventional in form but makes up for it with the ardent, passionate sweep of its ideas. The official Nos 1-3 are more intimate, their ebb and flow of melody and harmony is wayward and moody.

They require sympathetic players who are alert to every shade of atmosphere, especially in the elusive single-movement Sonata No. 2 (1923) and the beguilingly beautiful Sonata No. 3 (1930), assembled from Delius’s earlier sketches and completed with the devoted assistance of his musical amanuensis Eric Fenby.

In Susanne Stanzeleit and Gusztáv Fenyö they have certainly found worthy interpreters: the subtlety of their rubato and the
sheer responsive plasticity of Stanzeleit’s phrasing of the long melodic lines, which can so often seem to meander but here are a moment-to-moment index of feeling, are exemplary.

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It may be that Fenyö’s Hungarian ancestry gives him insight into Delius’s rhythmic language (remember that Delius was an enthusiast for Bartók!). Nevertheless, the outstanding version of Tasmin Little and Piers Lane still seems to retain benchmark status (just): their version of No. 3 is especially haunting, and they are served by an even better recording. Calum MacDonald