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Grieg • Tõnu Kõrvits • R Schumann: Violin Sonatas etc

Duo Gazzana (ECM)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Grieg • Tõnu Kõrvits• R Schumann
Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor; Tõnu Kõrvits: Stalker Suite; Notturni; R Schumann: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor
Duo Gazzana
ECM 485 8117   57:16 mins


This looked so good in prospect: ECM chooses its artists and repertoire carefully, Gazzana sisters Natascia (violin) and Raffaella (piano) had the most recent pieces composed for them by outstanding Estonian composer Tõnu Kõrvits, and the interweaving of romantic and modern repertoire is usually a fine thing. Results? Good enough, but not the revelation I’d hoped.

You could argue that Kõrvits gives shards of the melodic writing so profuse in Grieg and Schumann – his instinct is tonal, surely – as if after a blitz. The homage to Tarkovsky’s Stalker is evocative, epigrammatic: doom-tolling, fragments of melody, a ‘speaking’ third movement for violin alone, promise much.

 Schumann’s A minor Sonata, though, feels strangely ordinary; in the ambiguous tone of the Allegretto central movement, you feel Natascia’s slightly acerbic tone, more viola-like in its predecessor, doesn’t turn inward or bittersweet enough. Raffaella is better at the intimacy, but the grandeur needs more brilliance; if the sound of the recording is the star of the show, the pianist isn’t, though the sibling interplay clearly pays off at times.

Back to Kõrvits: the melodies hinted at, eventually liberated in the fourth of the Notturni, pave the way for Grieg, who you feel might have been better off parcelling his immortal tunes out in similar short pieces rather than sonata form. The second theme of the opening Allegro is vintage amidst the rodomontade; likewise the main idea of the alla Romanza. The sisters do finally clinch the dance-tumble of the finale, but the extroversion comes a bit too late.


David Nice