Korngold: Violin Sonata; Much Ado about Nothing Suite

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Violin Sonata; Much Ado about Nothing Suite
PERFORMER: Detlef Hahn (violin), Andrew Ball (piano)
Catching the right emotional temperature for the music of Korngold is much more difficult than might at first be apparent. Korngold writes with unfailing intensity, his musical character so replete with feeling that it’s all too easy for musicians to approach him ‘molto con belto’. The opposite approach can often be more successful. Detlef Hahn and Andrew Ball do tend to shy away from the sentiment, which pays dividends in the tremendously underrated and very complex Violin Sonata, performed here with considerable power (and some distinctly heavy breathing); likewise they capture the lively, whimsical nature of the Much Ado suite very nicely. The operatic extracts, which need room to breathe and glow, err somewhat in the opposite direction. The songs from Die tote Stadt feel a little tense and hurried (as does the Serenade) and the transfer of Heliane’s great aria from Das Wunder der Heliane to violin and piano is perhaps not wholly convincing, although it is good that this fabulous piece has the chance to be heard at all. The Sonnett für Wien works far better, its yearning ninths handled by Hahn with beautifully placed portamenti. The balance between the violin and piano is not always ideal, especially in the Sonata, where the violin at times seems a little overwhelmed – but this could be more the fault of microphone positioning than of Andrew Ball’s otherwise excellent partnership. Jessica Duchen