Schubert: Violin Sonatas, Op. 137 & 162

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Op. 137 & 162
PERFORMER: Andrew Manze (violin), Richard Egarr (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907445
Is it simply because Schubert’s A major Sonata of 1817 was first published as ‘Duo’ while its three predecessors composed just a year earlier emerged in print as ‘sonatinas’ that many violinists have exclusively concentrated on the former? Not entirely: as Andrew Manze’s newly luminous, spacious violin line so aristocratically stresses, there is a new confidence in the A major

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work. Yet Manze and his regular

duo partner Richard Egarr also underline the versatility of the 1816 sonatas more vividly than

any other interpreters.

Within the first, the work of a 19-year old schoolmaster, we move assuredly from a well-behaved Mozartian first movement to the authentically Schubertian song without words at the heart of the Andante, framed by harp-like piano chords from Egarr, and a dash of tarantella wildness to an unusually robust finale. The second, A minor Sonata takes us one step further with its strong, dark leaps and the eerie modulations in its first-movement development, judiciously vibrato-free here. The bald opening of the G minor Sonata sounds as if it’s waiting for something strange to happen – which, again, it does in the development. Manze’s lively notes prepare us for a surprise in the finale, a leap back from the emphatic G major ending to G minor in a second repeat; this ‘stroke of genius’, as he calls it, is however denied us in the performance. It’s a shame, too, that the duo’s idiosyncrasy is undercut by the recording; surely salon close-up would have been preferable to a listening seat in the nave of a resonant Dutch church.

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David Nice