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Hyperion Records

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Woman with Blue Eyes (detail) (c1918) by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67930
Recording details: November 2011
Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: September 2012
Total duration: 20 minutes 16 seconds

'What a strikingly inventive work the D minor Sonata is, particularly when played with such passion, purity of tone and poignancy as it is on this disc … a revelatory programme, performed with rare panache' (Gramophone)

'You're unlikely to find more sympathetic and committed performances than these: Tanja Becker-Bender's phrasing of Respighi's long lines and her range and subtlety of colour give both Sonatas every chance to make their mark. She is admirably partnered by Péter Nagy' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The young Ottorino Respighi, a contemporary of Puccini, looked north over the Alps for his musical influences, writing firmly in the Austro-German tradition and with an astonishingly assured Brahmsian sweep. At 19 he was already an accomplished violinist, giving the instrument long, singing lines in his Sonata in D minor, which Tanja Becker-Bender exploits to the full here. The 1917 B minor Sonata is an altogether more intense affair, with a complex harmonic structure beautifully delineated by Péter Nagy' (The Observer)

'The Five Pieces of 1906 … reveal a talent for light and shade that recalls the easygoing formality of Elgar's violin miniatures. None captures this better than the third of the set, a 'Madrigale', which inspires some of Tanja Becker-Bender's most charming playing … piano and violin are balanced well, with neither pushed forward at the expense of the other, and Nigel Simeone's booklet notes deliver detailed and insightful commentary on this rarely travelled path of the violin's repertoire' (International Record Review)

Violin Sonata in D minor
November 1897

Adagio  [6'56]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
According to the title page of the manuscript the Violin Sonata in D minor was completed in November 1897. From the brief slow introduction of the first movement (with allusions to Baroque dotted rhythms) and the ensuing Allegro, two things soon become apparent: the idiomatic and sonorous violin writing suggests a young composer who was as much at home composing for the instrument as he was playing it; and second, Respighi’s gift for sweeping melodies was of an almost Brahmsian ardour. The first idea of the main Allegro begins with a theme based around urgent arpeggios, but a soaring violin melody soon emerges and this provides the material for much of what follows. The influences in this movement are from the Austro-German tradition, and maybe, too, from the Franco-Belgian school with occasional hints of the harmonic mobility of César Franck. What is perhaps most remarkable is the extraordinary assurance that Respighi demonstrates in such an early work, generating strong, sweeping musical lines that reach a climax in the short coda.

The Adagio, in F major, opens gently, and soon a rising theme is heard—introduced by the piano, with the violin following closely—over pulsating triplet chords, and the dotted quaver–semiquaver figure with which this opens comes to dominate much of the music that follows. The lyrical eloquence of this movement draws its inspiration from instrumental precedents (again, there are echoes of Franck and Schumann among others).

The Allegretto finale contrasts a nervy first idea (with hints of Baroque ornamentation) with a rapturous tune in the major key that again suggests a young composer already starting to find a fluent and coherent voice of his own; while owing something (especially) to Brahms and his contemporaries, there is real individuality here too. The Sonata ends in a mood of quiet, slightly melancholy caprice, with Respighi resisting any temptation for a ‘big’ finish.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2012

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