Widor: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Widor
LABELS: Centaur
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2
PERFORMER: Janet Packer (violin), Orin Grossman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CRC 2475
The listener will very likely be unfamiliar with Widor’s violin and piano music, as all but one of the five pieces on this disc are recorded for the first time. The veil of obscurity can conceal deformities as well as treasures, and in the case of Widor was probably better left undisturbed. There is some sporadically attractive music, more often in the slower movements, but more characteristic is a tendency to meander towards no discernible objective. Perhaps this was a legacy of the hours the composer spent improvising at the organ – hours which became years, as Widor organ-bashed away into his nineties. Just as Widor’s life must have seemed interminable, so is his Second Violin Sonata – the only work previously recorded. Its chaste flirtation with chromaticism does little to enliven a work whose salient quality is a dogged determination to ramble in a digressive and annoying fashion.

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Performances of rare sensitivity are required to make anything out of such material. Although Janet Packer approaches the task with gusto, her intonation is too frequently awry. Mysteriously, this failing seems to have spread to pianist Orin Grossman, whose instrument is also out of tune. One to pass over. Christopher Wood