WORKS: Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Vol. 1: Sonatas in D, D384; in A minor, D385; in G, D408; Rondo in B minor, D895
PERFORMER: Julia Fischer (violin), Martin Helmchen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PCT 5186 347 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Schubert’s works for violin and piano are not among his masterpieces, with one exception, not found on this disc. So I began to listen with mild feelings of resignation, but the playing is so spontaneous, invigorating and fresh that, though I wouldn’t want, on the whole, to listen straight through, I found it constantly enjoyable.
The three sonatas all come from 1816, when Schubert was 19, and a year after he reached compositional maturity with his first great songs.
These sonatas have a model, as the songs didn’t have: Mozart. The first of them is strikingly derivative, as the notes claim, from Mozart’s E minor Sonata, K304, one of his first masterpieces.
The same can’t be said of Schubert’s Sonata in D major, D384, but it is unfailingly charming, and copes well with the problems that all string plus piano sonatas encounter – the sustaining tones of the violin against the more percussive ones of the piano.
These three sonatas are all lightweight, but when played with such sweet tone as Julia Fischer brings to them, and such sensitive and responsive pianism as the remarkable young pianist Martin Helmchen commands, the results are delightful.
I wouldn’t say quite the same about the Rondo in B minor, D895, which was written ten years later, when Schubert was at the height of his powers, but was mainly designed to show off the virtuosity of the violinist Slawjk. This is not an area where Schubert was most at home, but once again the performers do all they can for the piece. Michael Tanner