Elgar: Violin Sonata, Op. 82; Miniatures for violin & piano

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: Violin Sonata, Op. 82; Miniatures for violin & piano
PERFORMER: Marat Bisengaliev (violin), Benjamin Frith (piano)
Quite a mixture – from the familiar Elgar to the newly resurrected. Two pieces have been reassembled by Worcestershire’s county music inspector, Christopher Polyblank – Polonaise in D minor (constructed from two separate fragments) and Valse on Themes by Elgar (originally even more fragmentary). The Valse is unmemorable; small wonder Elgar couldn’t be bothered to work out its flat, listless main theme. But the Polonaise is great fun. Marat Bisengaliev plays it with truly Elgarian bounce and swagger, while Benjamin Frith brings orchestral richness and power to the piano part. Bisengaliev and Frith make a strong partnership, whether in the hearty, out-of-doors jollity of the two Bavarian Dances or in the tender miniature Dreaming, and the recording balances them reasonably well. The only big disappointment comes, alas, in the Violin Sonata – specifically in the central Romance. Bisengaliev just doesn’t have the light, ironic touch to bring this fascinating, weirdly mercurial movement to life. It all seems a bit earnest and heavy-footed. Going back to some of the earlier performances again after this, that lack seems more generally apparent. There’s plenty to enjoy here – it’s just a pity the reservations have to affect the best part of the most repeatable work on the disc. Stephen Johnson