Ovsyanikova & Sinani Play French Music

cover - Stone 5060192780963

LES SAISONS FRANÇAISES / DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata. L. BOULANGER: Deux morceau for Violin & Piano. RAVEL: Sonate Posthume for Violin & Piano. POULENC: Violin Sonata / Anna Ovsyanikova, vln; Julia Sinani, pno / Stone Records 5060192780963

About a quarter-century ago, the Nash Ensemble made an album of Debussy’s music that was so deep and had such an unusual aura about it that you didn’t so much feel as if you were actually at the concert so much as you felt that you were the one performing the music. Recorded deep in the night when all was still around the studio, it just had a strange ambience that infused the participating musicians with an incredible feeling.

This album is like that, too.

Despite the fact that pianist Julia Sinani’s name looks Italian, both she and violinist Ovsyanikova are Russian—but they are presented here on Stone Records, a British label, because both studied at the Royal Academy of Music and are in fact living and performing in the UK. The liner notes do not say whether or not this is their debut CD but, if it is, it is certainly an auspicious one.

They play the Debussy Violin Sonata like no one else, and in addition to the very sensuous opening (and other delicate touches in the succeeding movements) they also play with great energy, as if they love this music so much that they just can’t wait to play it for you. Of the three recordings in my collection, the only one better than this is the one on that very same Nash Ensemble CD, played by Marcia Crayford and Ian Brown, although Maria Bachmann and Adam Nieman on Bridge come very close.

As for Lili Boulanger’s Deux morceau (“Nocturne” and “Cortège”), their performance here is even fleeter and more exuberant than the one by violinist Yvonne Astruc with Lili’s sister, Nadia Boulanger, at the piano. Honestly, I had never heard the Op. Posth. violin sonata by Ravel before, being only familiar with the much more famous Violin Sonata No. 2, but this duo makes a very persuasive case for it, again playing very sensuously in the medium-slow opening section.

Though I had no recordings of the Ravel sonata, I own four of the Poulenc—by Duccio Ceccanti and Matteo Fossi, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Anne-Marie McDermott, Arabella Steinbacher and Robert Kulek, and by Irina Borrisova and Giacomo Battarino—and all four are quite good, with the Salerno-Sonnenberg and Borrisova performances being my favorites. This one is right up there in both technical quality and depth of feeling.

Needless to say, I was deeply impressed by this duo and greatly enamored of their playing. I sincerely hope that they will continue to perform, and perhaps even give us more modern violin sonatas, on future releases. Brava, ladies!

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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