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Soundscapes

Tosca Opdam (violin), Alexander Ullman (piano) (Challenge Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Soundscapes
Elgar: Violin Sonata; Mendelssohn: Violin Sonata in F; May Breezes; Raaff: Violin Sonata No. 2; plus works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and F Price
Tosca Opdam (violin), Alexander Ullman (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72893   70:21 mins

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In her liner note, Dutch violinist Tosca Opdam draws parallels between the three sonatas on this album and the environments which helped inspire them: the glorious Sussex countryside for the Elgar, Mendelssohn’s Swiss watercolour paintings for his F major Sonata, and Willem de Kooning’s 1977 painting North Atlantic Light, which formed the basis of Robin de Raaff’s eponymous Second Sonata. In the Elgar, one can indeed sense the music being etched in unusual detail by Opdam and Alexander Ullman, with ravishingly poetic playing in the outer movements suggesting the composer pausing to take in some new panoramic view. Ullman works wonders with Elgar’s piano figurations, conjuring up the evocative sounds of a rippling brook and countryside breezes. A shade more sonic ambience would have helped enhance the illusion.

The Mendelssohn is given a chamber-scale performance, gently shaded and replete with deft touches that fully capture the music’s radiant innocence. The De Raaff (written for and premiered by Opdam) is a highly evocative soundscape, in which Opdam assumes the role of painter ‘sketching notes while looking for solid ground’. The three miniatures – Florence Price’s The Deserted Garden, Mendelssohn’s ‘May Breezes’ from Songs without Words, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Sea Murmurs – are also performed with captivating sensitivity, bringing their pictorial inspirations irresistibly to mind.

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Julian Haylock