Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Dong-Suk Kang (violin)Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-647 DDD
‘These three works are among my best, and represent periods in my development; the first, naive and rich in role-models; the second, national; and the third, having the widest horizons.’ Grieg’s personal observations, recorded in a letter to the poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsson dated 16 January 1900, still serve us well in assessing these compositions with any degree of objectivity. Two decades separate the first two sonatas from the masterly C minor work, the finest of the set.

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Following Augustin Dumay’s fine DG release come new surveys from Kang and Charlier; Kang readily eclipses his French rivals, and his BIS issue now leads the field. Ardently supported by Roland Pöntinen, Dong-Suk Kang plays with sweeping élan, passion and inner warmth. Tempi are alert, textures dutifully clarified (all credit to Pöntinen here), and the music is treated with a degree of commitment and instinctive authority which makes these creditable pieces sound a great deal more profound and thoroughgoing than one might otherwise imagine.

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Olivier Charlier is a compellingly gifted violinist; yet neither he, nor his somewhat impassive accompanist Brigitte Engerer probe more than superficially into the music. They are at their best in the C minor work, but their reading quickly palls alongside the palpably superior insight and technical finesse of the BIS duo. Their Harmonia Mundi disc is decently recorded, though the balance favours the violin, and not always to the best advantage. Kang and Pöntinen benefit from the entirely natural perspectives created by the BIS engineers; internal balance and clarity of piano voicings could scarcely be improved. An issue of technical excellence and absolute musical credibility. Michael Jameson