COMPOSERS: Honegger; Milhaud; Ysaye
ALBUM TITLE: Various – Honegger; Milhaud & Ysaye
WORKS: Sonatine for Two Violins
PERFORMER: Thomas Christian, Daniela Preimesberger (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 777 159-2
The first and longest of Ysaÿe’s six sonatas for solo violin lasts around 15 minutes. Whether doubling the executants justifies doubling the length is a question I found myself asking quite early in the present Sonata. There are long patches when, emotionally, nothing much seems to be happening. Also, from the point of view of aural pleasure, double-, triple- and multiple-stopping are severely subject to the law of diminishing returns. The players here – teacher and pupil – are well matched in tone and style, intonation is secure and they phrase intelligently, but long before the half-hour was up, for all their evident commitment, I craved something simpler and less ambitious.
This I found in the Milhaud and Honegger pieces, played here with appropriate lightness and charm. Milhaud’s Duo and Sonatine are both easy on the ear, couched in that neo-modal style he embraced perhaps rather too readily after World War II. Honegger’s Sonatine – first performed by the composer and Milhaud in 1920 – is by far the best piece on the disc: full of character and contrasts, and never driving the material on beyond its natural limits. Roger Nichols