Tanja Becker-Bender performs Bartok violin sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Bela Bartók
WORKS: Rhapsodies Nos 1 & 2; Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Violin Sonata in E minor; Solo Violin Sonata; Piano Sonata; Romanian Folk Dances (arr. Szekely); Andante in A
PERFORMER: Tanja Becker-Bender (violin), Peter Nagy (piano)


Beginning with the First Rhapsody is a cunning move: not only does it demonstrate Tanja Becker-Bender’s engagement with the folk style of string playing, but also it eases the ear in gently to the more acerbic harmonies and sophisticated musical arguments of the First Violin Sonata. Here, she and pianist Peter Nagy characterise the free-flowing, rhapsodic substance of the opening movement with complete assurance, and her palette of tone colours is dazzling and well-chosen. She could be a little further forward in the recorded balance, but the ear soon adjusts. The echoes of Debussy in the gentle central Adagio form a calm interlude before the more overtly Hungarian finale, which looks back to the essence of the faster sections in both the rhapsodies. It finds the players in unbuttoned mood, but nevertheless in total control. As they are in the Second Sonata, where they convey the passion and direction in the often wide-ranging lines.

It’s quite a shock to turn to the early unpublished Sonata which opens the second disc, and hear Becker-Bender and Nagy luxuriating in its unashamed late Romanticism, although there are a few moments of suspect intonation from her. The real meat comes in the two solo sonatas: in the Piano Sonata, Nagy steps into the limelight, and, although there he could give more tonal variety, the energy of the music cuts through. Becker-Bender really goes for it in the Solo Violin Sonata, especially in the faster movements: again, there are a few technical imperfections, but the music is strongly imagined and projected.


Martin Cotton