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

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No 3
PERFORMER: Pierre Amoyal (violin), Frederic Chiu (piano)
Grieg considered his three violin sonatas to be among his finest works: Pierre Amoyal and Frederic Chiu respond to these noble pieces with tender virtuosity and deeply felt empathy. Their decision to present the sonatas in reverse chronological order is intriguing and successful, the dark intensity of the C minor, Op. 45, giving way to the less subdued richness of the G major, Op. 13, and finally the bright-eyed lyricism of the F major, Op. 8.


Amoyal and Chiu give exemplary readings of all three sonatas. Amoyal indulges in touches of surging rubato throughout the C minor, but Chiu keeps perfect pace and the ensemble is always beautifully judged, from the brooding melodies of the Allegro molto ed appassionata through the heartfelt poignancy of the middle movement, Allegretto espressivo alla Romanza, to the triumphant bravura of the Allegro animato.

The lithe beauty of the Sonata in G is compelling, particularly in the dancing spiccato of the opening Allegro vivace, and Amoyal’s richness and intensity of expression propels the movement through to its final, powerful heights. The explosive, dancing phrases of the last movement are equally effective.


The only disappointment in this fine recording is that the opening Allegro con brio of the First Sonata is rather too carefully paced. Amoyal misses out on the sparkling joie de vivre of Henning Kraggerud’s Naxos recording with Helge Kjekshus: Amoyal’s considered reading has an air of underlying melancholy. He soon recovers, however, with the brash reminiscences of the traditional Norwegian fiddle in the middle movement and the flowing melodies of the final Allegro molto vivace: here, Amoyal and Chiu’s full expressive powers are evident in a reading full of charm. Catherine Nelson