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Hyperion Records

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The Broken Key (1938) by Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Sprengel Museum, Hannover / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67833
Recording details: April 2010
Beethovensaal, Hannover, Germany
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: February 2011
Total duration: 19 minutes 40 seconds

'Tanja Becker-Bender can muster both impressively full tone and a not inappropriate astringent edge. No mean virtuoso, her previous release for Hyperion was an acclaimed set of Paganini Caprices and it helps that the company provides a helpful booklet-note that does not over-egg the contextual pudding … worth a punt' (Gramophone)

'The young German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender offers absolutely stunning playing throughout this warmly recorded disc. She makes light work of the formidable technical challenges … her exemplary partnership with Markus Becker recaps equally enthralling musical rewards … the Suite is projected with great charm and elegance. Perhaps most impressive of all is their performance of the Second Sonata. Here Becker-Bender and Becker face competition from the highly rated recording by Gidon Kremer and Oleg Maisenberg on Warner. Yet this new version fizzes with an even greater degree of propulsion and exuberance … altogether this is an outstanding release that can be confidently recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'There is some challenging music here for both players and it receives performances of the highest quality, as though this music were at the very centre of the standard repertoire instead of well beyond its fringes. Tanja Becker-Bender's tonal palette is wide, not shying away in the least from the occasional heathly dig into the strings; she seems totally at home with the material and certainly has an edge in power and musical range over the relatively lithe approach of her predecessor Ivan Zenatý for Supraphon' (International Record Review)

'The performances are first rate. Tanja Becker-Bender is the assertive, often spectacular violinist. Pianist Markus Becker does fine things with accompaniments that can sometimes seem ungrateful and predominantley supportive' (The Guardian)

'Tanja Becker-Bender has no problem negotiating her way through this stylistic plurality. She indulges to charming effect the playfulness of the early suite, where shades of Korngold intertwine with the sinuousness of early Schoenberg … it's a measure of her responsiveness to the varying demands of the music that she can alter her sound so well to what is required of her at any one point … Markus Becker is a supportive duo partner throughout and the recording of both players is well balanced' (The Strad)

Suite for violin and piano, WV18
composer
1911; Cologne; Opus 1; first movement subtitled 'Erotik'; last movement subtitled 'Dance of the Little Devils'; first published in 2004

Gavotte: Mäßig  [3'08]
Menuetto  [3'27]
Walzer  [4'09]
Scherzo: Schnell  [5'41]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Schulhoff wrote his Suite for violin and piano, WV18, in 1911. Clearly this was a piece to which he attached importance at the time, since he designated it his official Opus 1 (superseding an earlier series of opus numbers that he had used for juvenile works), and it was his first work in an extended musical form. This five-movement Suite draws in part on Baroque and later dance forms, and there’s perhaps an influence from the various suites ‘in olden style’ that were in vogue at the time. Schulhoff is likely to have been familiar with one in particular: his former teacher Reger wrote a Suite im alten Stil (Op 93) that is best known in its later version for orchestra, but was originally published for violin and piano in 1906. There’s certainly no faux-Baroque in the rhapsodic first movement, a ripely expressive Präludium in an ardent, late-Romantic style, with the tempo marking Stürmisch (Stormy). It is one of the two movements of the Suite to have superscriptions on the autograph manuscript where it is described as ‘Erotik’ (Erotic). This might seem a slightly anomalous start to a work that is largely based on old dance forms, but it’s a very effective movement and demonstrates a considerable flair for idiomatic violin writing. The Gavotte that follows is an elegantly turned movement with clear Baroque roots, but Schulhoff offers a contrast in its central section where a violin drone supports the piano. The third movement is a Menuetto (with trio) that again reveals Schulhoff’s ability to write with charm and quirky individuality, even when he is essentially composing a pastiche. The fourth movement is a waltz and here Schulhoff’s writing feels much freer: there’s not only fluency but also melodic invention tinged with melancholy, and some attractively mobile late-Romantic harmonies. After this rather haunting movement, the finale of the Suite is a Scherzo (again with trio), with a superscription on the manuscript: ‘Dance of the Little Devils’, presumably suggested by the spiky and uneasy main theme. This inventive and attractive work remained unpublished until 2004.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2011

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