Scumann Complete Violin Sonatas

COMPOSERS: Robert Schumann
LABELS: hybrid CD/SACD
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Complete violin sonatas
PERFORMER: Ulf Wallin (violin), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BISSACD1784

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Only the First of Schumann’s Three Violin Sonatas gets anything like a frequent airing in the concert hall, despite respectable representation in the current CD catalogue. In contrast, the other Sonatas seem to be blighted by the myth that the majority of Schumann’s late works reflect an unfortunate decline in his creative powers. Ulf Wallin and his regular duo partner, Roland Pöntinen, have absolutely no truck with this view and deliver one of most compelling accounts of the Second Sonata that I’ve ever heard. In lesser hands, this work’s outer movements can so easily sound relentless and even monotonous, with their obsessive rhythmic sequences and thickly textured writing. Here, however, Wallin and Pöntinen extract the maximum variety of expression and articulation out of the material, almost as if they are restoring the vibrant colours to an ancient painting. It’s an achievement made all the more impressive by their decision to observe the first-half repeats in both movements, thus extending the Sonata’s overall duration to well over half an hour.

Equally, the Third Sonata, for so long condemned by Joachim and Brahms as being unworthy of its composer, exudes unexpected joy as well as moments of tender melancholy. Ironically, Wallin and Pöntinen are not quite so imaginative in the First Sonata. Its acoustic is rather congested, not as well-balanced as the other Sonatas, recorded in a different location. Moreover, some of the First Sonata’s capriciousness and sense of fantasy is not as persuasively projected, especially in its second and third movements.

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Erik Levi