Bartók Hungarian Folktunes; Violin Sonata Schumann Violin Sonata No. 1; Three Romances
Stephen Waarts (violin), Gabriele Carcano (piano)
Rubicon RCD1027 73:17 mins
Though they might seem an unlikely pair, Schumann and Bartók are linked by several threads: notably the Hungarian violinists Joseph Joachim (friend to Schumann, admired by Bartók) and his great-niece Jelly d’Arányi, for whom Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 1 was written, and who gave the UK premiere of the Schumann Violin Concerto in 1938. Stephen Waarts and Gabriele Carcano also find musical affinities between the composers. Bartók’s style – whether in the modernist Sonata or the breezy folksong arrangements – is not just earth and fire, but poise, lyricism and elegance as well. Perhaps his works receive the more successful performances here: the folksong arrangements are full of atmosphere, freshness and verve, while the considerable challenges of the massive Sonata No. 1 are delivered with an almost nonchalant sense of ease, even from the pianist – plaudits there indeed.
The Schumann Sonata presents certain traps, though, into which the duo occasionally steps: the last movement, for example, is taken a little too slowly and deliberately, which encourages exaggeration in the second theme’s accents, which then bark. The Romances, though, are a joy, well suited to the violin’s vocal eloquence. The recording is clear and warm.