Moncado Plays 20th Century Violin Sonatas

cover Avi 8553493

MONCADO: Hindemith: Violin Sonata in E, Op. 11. POULENC: Violin Sonata. BARTÓK: Violin Sonata No. 1 / Elias David Moncado, vln; Hansjacob Staemmler, pno / CAvi 8553577D

This is the debut CD of German-Spanish-Malaysian (there’s an ethnic combination for you!) violinist, Elias David Moncado, winner of the 2021 International Valsesia Musica and Vladimir Spivakov competitions. My readers know that, to me, winning competitions really don’t usually amount to a hill of beans unless you show me that you have real talent and not just technical skill, but considering that Moncado is only 21 years old, and that this CD shows a temperament that is both fiery and poetic in turns, does matter to me.

I have recordings of the Hindemith sonata by two excellent violinists, David Oistrakh and Frank Peter Zimmermann, but I would put this performance above both of them in terms of his consistently emotional connection with the music. Interestingly, Moncado uses straight tone in the slow movement of the Hindemith, which of course was not standard practice among violinists of his time (and certainly not German violinists, who then preferred a rich, plummy tone), but it works because, somehow, Moncado avoids sounding whiny and abrasive, yet another feather in his cap. Would that all modern violinists who use straight tone could produce as beautiful a sound as Moncado does here; and beyond the sheer sound, his playing is deeply heartfelt, even touching. I think Hindemith would have loved this performance.

Even more startlingly, he attacks the Poulenc sonata as if it were Bartók or Beethoven. I say this is startling simply because most French violinists, particularly in Poulenc’s time, tended to favor a light, skimming sound on their instruments (think of Thibaud, Merckel, Tzipine and Delbos); only Ginette Neveu  had a more emotional approach to the instrument; but Moncado is every bit Neveu’s equal in both technique and temperament, and I enjoyed his performance immensely.

Needless to say, when Moncado gets to the Bartók sonata, he is simply astonishing—explosive in the fast passages, sensitive in the lyrical ones—and since his timbre resembles that of Joseph Szigeti to a large degree, there is no question that these performances are not the kind that the composer would have envisioned. And of course I should add that his accompanist, Hansjacob Staemmler, is every bit Moncado’s equal as an interpreter, giving his all on each and every track.

This is quite a debut disc. I can’t wait to hear what Moncado has in store for us next!

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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