Violin Sonata No.3 op.128, Aus der Schweitz op.57, Sonatillen op.99 Nos.4-7 & Duo
op.63 no.1 on motifs from Wagner's Der Fleigende Holländer
Ingolf Turban,violin & Jascha Nemtsov, piano
cpo 999 769 2004 DDD 61:45
We have had to wait over a year for cpo to release this third volume in their complete survey of Raff's music for violin and piano. As before, the centrepiece of the disk is a Violin Sonata - in this case No.3, dating from 1865. The works which fill out this issue are no mere trifles, either. Aus der Schweitz is a 14 minute lyrical fantasy and, like the shorter Duo on Flying Dutchman motifs, is an important work in Raff's development. All three pieces are recording premiere's, but Paetsch Neftel and Le Van have pipped Turban and Nemtsov to the post with their recent Sonatilles set for Tudor.
Raff called his Aus der Schweitz (From Switzerland) a Fantastic Eclogue, a sort of pastoral idyll recalling his Swiss homeland, written whilst he was enduring a generally miserable time in Stuttgart. Bearing in mind that he had previously composed only for the piano or the voice, it is an astonishingly assured work. The Swiss echoes abound: horn calls across an alpine valley, folk dances and cascading waterfalls are all ingratiatingly woven into the fabric of this impressive work. Although Turban's contribution is as fine as we have come to expect from him and he hardly takes a back seat, it is Nemtsov who really shines in this piece. Raff's writing, perhaps understandably in his first work for violin, rather favours the piano and Nemtsov's wide expressive range is amply demonstrated here.
During a recital which took place around the time of these recordings, Turban explained to the audience that he was substituting some other works for the promised Violin Sonata No.3 because it was "a rather pompous work". A surprise, as no pomposity was evident when he had played it a few month's earlier in Stuttgart. Perhaps the current recording might clarify this odd remark...
The Sonata begins sunnily, the Allegro finding Raff in a carefree and genial mood. The writing is brilliant, the melodies are memorable, the textures constantly vary and it lasts just about long enough - a fine start. The Allegro assai which follows maintains the good impression. The pair dash headlong through the forest of notes before a sudden stop introduces a sweet but brief trio, which soon speeds up into a reprise of the opening material.
The third movement is an Andante quasi Larghetto, and is much deeper in feeling than the first two. It has an imploring tone - well captured in the interplay between the players. Not as strong melodically as many of Raff's slow movements, it nonetheless comes across more powerfully here than it did in the Stuttgart recital because it is taken more slowly. The concluding Allegro vivace is a joyful (if a mite repetitious) piece which rounds the work off nicely. Turban's remark must remain an enigma - no trace of pomposity here.
The Ten Sonatilles are Raff's 1880 arrangement of a set of three mini Piano Sonatas (Sonatilles) which he had written in 1861. The central quartet of them (Nos.4-7) equate to Sonatille No.2 in the piano original. Michaela Paetsch Neftel and Eric Le Van have already treated us to scintillating performances of these delightful miniatures in their pioneering Tudor issue [review]. There is little to choose between the two performances, although the Tudor duo do seem more relaxed and better convey the works' charm, perhaps because Turban has a rather cooler tone than Neftel. There is some uncalled for earnestness in the opening Allegro here, and less humour in the following Scherzo, for example. The Larghetto quasi Andante, though, is a mellifluous treasure.
Raff's three Duos op.63 are a sort of complement to his pamphlet Die Wagnerfrage. They take themes from the operas and rework them along classical lines. The other two in the set have already been aired in the previous volumes of this series. Like them, the Flying Dutchman duo is no pot pourri but a serious minded work, which comes across as a surprisingly independent creation in this sensitive and persuasive performance. The violin, by turns lyrical and assertive, is well partnered by Nemtsov's subtle accompaniment. He has a fine ear for Raff's poetic writing for the piano.
The Stuttgart duo continue to impress with their technique and intelligent interpretations (minor reservations about the Sonatilles notwithstanding). The recording imparts to Turban's violin a slightly thinner, colder tone than one recalls it having in reality, but this is not generally a problem. It also rather favours the piano. Georg Albrecht Eckle's insert notes are extensive, scholarly and an object lesson in damning with faint praise. That said, once again cpo have produced a fine disk which is an essential buy for any Raff enthusiast.
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