Respighi Violin Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Ottorino Respighi
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Respighi Violin Sonatas
WORKS: Violin Sonatas in D minor & B minor; Five Pieces; Valse Caressante; Serenata
PERFORMER: Tanja Becker-Bender (violin); Péter Nagy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67930

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Respighi was a gifted violinist, yet neither of his Violin Sonatas quite makes it to immortality: the early D major (1897), for all its youthful attractiveness and Brahmsian echoes, sounds a little second-hand and may not even be complete, for it ends with a scherzo. The better-known B minor Sonata from 20 years later, championed by Jascha Heifetz, is a far more ambitious piece but despite powerful ideas is rather anonymous in personality and is let down by an over-complicated piano part. Still, you’re unlikely to find more sympathetic and committed performances than these: Tanja Becker-Bender’s phrasing of Respighi’s long lines and her range and subtlety of colour give both Sonatas every chance to make their mark. She is admirably partnered by Péter Nagy, who makes the best possible case for the B minor’s sometimes ponderous piano writing. They also include the appealing and elegant Cinque Pezzi of 1906, which are really superior salon music; but the scene-stealer on the disc is the delicious Valse caressante from Respighi’s slightly earlier set of Sei Pezzi, a work which deserves to be better known, if only as an ideal encore.

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Calum MacDonald