R Strauss • Respighi • Rota

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss • Respighi • Rota
LABELS: Challenge
WORKS: Violin Sonatas
PERFORMER: Isabelle von Keulen (violin), Roland Brautigam (piano)


Violin sonatas are notorious for featuring piano parts infinitely more technically demanding than the violin line, particularly in the case of Richard Strauss’s wrist-crippling barnstormer.

Ronald Brautigam makes light of the score’s various intricacies, playing with a highly intuitive sensitivity that surpasses even Glenn Gould’s remarkable filmed performance with Oscar Shumsky (Sony).

Violinist Isabelle van Keulen matches Brautigam with playing of glorious-toned opulence and imagination, even if she ultimately lacks the fiery intensity of Jascha Heifetz (RCA).

Like Kyung-Wha Chung and Krystian Zimerman in their outstanding coupling for DG, van Keulen includes the Respighi Sonata, a skilfully-written work that makes all the right moves yet (strangely for this particular composer) is completely devoid of indelible melody despite its lyrical surge.

Here van Keulen’s sumptuous cantabile and heightened expressive instincts really come into their own, and Brautigam’s exquisite handling of the central movement’s magical introduction is worth the price of the disc alone.


Nino Rota’s 1937 Sonata is the real discovery here, a restrained, almost Fauré-like iridescent gem that succeeds simply by never trying too hard. It completes a rewarding recital programme that confirms van Keulen and Brautigam as one of the most compelling violin and piano partnerships around today. Julian Haylock