Schnittke/R Strauss/Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke/R Strauss/Haydn
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata in E flat; Sonata in G (originally Piano Trio Hob. XV:32)
PERFORMER: Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin), Viktoria Postnikova (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9274 DDD
Dating from 1963, Schnittke’s First Violin Sonata suggests that the roots of his idiom are in the later music of Shostakovich. Apart from a hint of jazz in the finale and the BACH motif in the slow movement, there’s no trace of polystylism. Instead, the focus is on sparsely contrapuntal writing and quasi-serial procedures. A profusion of darkly ironic waltzes and marches in the faster movements spell out the connection with the older composer.

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Each of these recordings has something to offer. Rozhdestvensky and Postnikova give the piece a compelling smoothness and grandeur. Events are well characterised, and the recording captures the violinist’s velvet playing and the pianist’s depth of keyboard tone. Violin sonatas by Richard Strauss and Haydn are an impressive bonus.

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Mateja Marinkovic’s Schnittke reading is tougher and spikier, with a recording quality that carries the charge of a live performance. With pianist Linn Hendry he also captures to perfection the fragmented rhetoric of Schnittke’s Second Violin Sonata of 1968, including the challenging central cadenza. Marinkovic, Silverthorne and Hugh make a disciplined, dispassionate ensemble in the String Trio. Economy of manner is their priority. This is a calm, considered view of a major addition to the repertoire that is also one of its composer’s finest works. Nicholas Williams