Schubert: Violin Sonatas, Op. 137 & 162

LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Op. 137 & 162
PERFORMER: Andrew Manze (violin), Richard Egarr (fortepiano)
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


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.


David Nice