Violin Sonatas: in F (1820); in F minor, Op. 4; in F, MWV Q7; in D, MWV Q18
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Hyperion CDA68322 66:19 mins
Clean playing from both performers, with light pedalling from Cédric Tiberghien, deals honestly with the two early sonatas and their engaging mixture of Classical and Romantic materials. At the ages of 11 and 14, Mendelssohn was not yet quite up to his Octet standard and some of his endings are formulaic and overlong. But the underlying genius is there for all to hear.
The 1838 Sonata, in which Tiberghien understandably allows himself more generous pedalling, shows Mendelssohn on top form, and surprise has been expressed as to why he never published it. My guess is that, as with the Italian Symphony, he may have felt it still needed one or two tweaks; and, although he did think he might never make old bones, at just 29 he probably did not expect to die at 38. If the work is not played that often, one reason may be, especially at the finale’s Assai vivace tempo obediently observed here, that it calls for considerable dexterity and stamina. Where the young composer fails to suggest dynamic markings for long stretches, the players are clearly right to invent them, so it’s strange that occasionally they ignore rallentandos. Also, in the middle movement of the F minor Sonata, Alina Ibragimova for some reason alters the first two notes of her entry, which should echo the piano’s. Most seriously of all, the richer piano textures sometimes obscure the violin.