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Hyperion Records

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Three Trees (1965) by Emil Parrag (b1925)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67699
Recording details: January 2009
Jerusalem Music Centre, Israel
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Zvi Hirshler
Release date: April 2010
Total duration: 19 minutes 15 seconds

'Shaham and Erez give an excellent performance [Dohnányi Sonata], Shaham's seductive tone and elegant phrasing being well matched by Erez's sensitive touch. The Ruralia hungarica pieces show the composer's more nationalistic side but are still farily traditional in their approach to folk material. Shaham is in his element here—the brilliant final piece carefree and dashing in style, the preceding, improvisatory Andante rubato alla zingaresca graceful and stylish' (Gramophone)

'The strongly Brahmsian Sonata [Dohnányi] is given a warm and affectionate reading, the central variation movement imaginatively characterised with Shaham's honeyed tone proving an ideal foil for Arnon Erez's bold and dynamic piano playing. But it's the more folksy Ruralia hungarica that draws the most compelling performance, Shaham negotiating the challenging violin pyrotechnics of the outer movements with impressive powerhouse playing as well as delivering a wonderfully atmospheric Andante rubato alla Zingaresca' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Hagai Shaham gives a deliciously rich and eloquent account of Dohnányi's Violin Sonata … it is thrilling, captivating playing, joyous and tender … there are sumptuous moments in Janáĉek's Sonata, too, but this is darker stuff, and Shaham brings to it a gentle sensibility … the rapport between Shaham and Arnon Erez, itself a notable feature of the disc, is quite wonderful in the tricky ensemble and fractured discourse of this sonata' (The Strad)

Violin Sonata in C sharp minor, Op 21
1912; Berlin

Vivace assai  [7'21]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Dohnányi composed a number of significant pieces for the violin, including two violin concertos; his most important chamber work for violin and piano is the Violin Sonata in C sharp minor Op 21, composed in Berlin in 1912. Dohnányi was by then thirty-five years of age, and the Sonata is a fully mature work showing his individual development of stylistic traits of Brahms and Liszt combined with a structural economy which reflects the close study of Brahms’s sonatas. One of the most noticeable features of this passionate and lively music (there is no actual slow movement) is Dohnányi’s concern to establish thematic unity and interconnection across the three movements by means of variation and thematic reminiscence in order to bind the work into a unity.

The Allegro appassionato first movement opens with a somewhat anxious theme in C sharp minor which is then heard, in varied form, in the major. A sweeping second subject is fairly short-lived, most of the attention being given to the first group. This movement is sometimes described as a sonata form without development, but it would be truer to say that the exposition is followed by an elaborated counter-exposition which fulfils the roles of both development and recapitulation, with the second subject finally being allowed to expand in the coda, which replaces the restless, unsettled mood of most of the movement with a more serene, elegiac atmosphere, and ends softly. (The truncated form of this first movement will only find its completion in the finale.)

The ensuing Allegro ma con tenerezza, which begins with a simple, song-like theme distinguished by the octave leap of its first two notes, is part scherzo, part intermezzo in six clearly defined sections. Some of these could be regarded as dance-variations on the movement’s initial theme—section 2, for instance, is in a siciliano rhythm—though the fourth section, which hints at the rhythm of the csárdás, also reintroduces a form of the first movement’s first subject. The fifth section, with its strumming violin pizzicati, is more serenade-like, while the final section is a refined reworking of the movement’s initial theme.

The last movement, Vivace assai, opens dramatically with a call to attention from the violin (harking back to the initial cell of the first movement) and then pitches in to a lively, capering 3/8 music whose main theme is yet another, though cunningly disguised, variant of the first movement’s main subject. A lyrical contrasting section in A major introduces a gorgeous theme in the violin that is underpinned by a continuation of the rhythmic invention in the piano. The Vivace assai music returns, if anything more intense and driving to a climax. After this the motion subsides, and the coda turns out to be an abbreviated and somewhat sotto voce restatement of the first movement’s exposition, with the second subject having the quietly expressive last word.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2010

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