L. BOULANGER: D’un matin de printemps. BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata No. 5,, “Spring.” SOSNOWSKI-NUSS: Intermezzo: Cadenza to Nuss’ “Elegy for Fukushima.” NUSS: Elegy for Fukushima. TAILLEFERRE: Violin Sonata No. 1. HAMAZU: 4 Pieces for Violin & Piano Around Sakura / Malwina Sosnowski, vln; Benyamin Nuss, pno / Genuin GEN 21747
On this sort-of concept album, Swiss violinist Malwina Sosnowski and German pianist Benyamin Nuss pay a little tribute to spring with this program combining Boulanger, Beethoven and Tailleferre with more modern works including pieces of their own.
The CD opens with Lili Boulanger’s fascinating D’un matin de printemps, her last composition before she died. The duo attacks it with élan and charm, although from the outset I noted that there was too much reverb around the instruments, a bane of many of today’s recordings. After a gentle, almost hesitant start, Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata moves into a joyful, bouncy rhythm. My impression of Sosnowski is that her playing is on the light side like that of many French violinists, with a bright, pointed tone, while Nuss plays with an equally light, bubbling style on the piano. Although a pleasant performance that I wouldn’t walk out on if I heard it in person, it’s not unique in any way.
Yet we enter a complete different world with the Intermezzo: Cadenza for Nuss; Elegy for Fukushima, a mysterious piece with edgy but soft string tremolos and extended-chord arpeggios before settling down to a strange melody for the violin over crushed chords, then the harmony also straightens out. This, as it turns out, is the Elegy itself.
Next up is the charming (if not particularly individual) violin sonata by Germaine Tailleferre, the only female member of Les Six, and this, too is played with the light, airy quality that one heard in the Beethoven.
We end our journey into spring with 4 Pieces for Violin Around Sakura by German-Japanese composer Masashi Hamazu (b. 1971). This is a strange piece which begins with unusual harmonies before moving into a very lyrical theme for the violinist as the pianist resolves his chords and things progress from there. This is a very creative piece, with brief uptempo flourishes interrupting the otherwise calm progression, until at last both instruments move into the brighter tempo and it sounds very much like French music of the neo-classic school—yet with interruptions in the original, slower tempo. The brief second movement begins briskly but again has moments of slower music. Thus the piece goes on, picking its own way through whatever strikes Hamazu’s mind at any given moment: sometimes light and jolly, sometimes slow and pensive. The liner notes tell us that this piece was commissioned for this CD, thus this is the world premiere performance.
Generally speaking, a very nice CD with some interesting moments. I look forward to hearing further outings by this duo to see if they will expand their repertoire even further.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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