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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67504
Recording details: October 2004
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: June 2006
Total duration: 23 minutes 0 seconds

'The playing is outgoing and communicative, and each movement makes a distinct positive impression. In vivacious movements the sheer verve of the playing is irresistible … an extremely enjoyable issue' (Gramophone)

'Following beautiful discs of Bloch and Hubay, Hagai Shaham offers us a remarkable album of Grieg. Dominated by musical quality without fault, these interpretations are also worth for perfect balance between the two instruments … in the three sonatas Shaham knew how to preserve a mixture of simplicity and thrifty lyricism which characterizes them … a beautiful good album' (Diapason, France)

'It is always a treat to get a Shaham-Erez recording to review … in this recording the violin and piano are treated as equal partners. Both instruments are reproduced in a way that allows everything to be heard in the musical equivalent to full natural color. Their musicianship is superb' (American Record Guide)

'Any rival versions to this Hyperion disc will have to be truly exceptional, for this issue is, in almost every respect, going to be hard to beat. The recording quality is first-class—the balance between the instruments is ideal, and the performances have clearly been thought through with considerable musicianship. This is a first-rate issue' (International Record Review)

'A strong recommendation' (Fanfare, USA)

'For each sonata has its own distinctive personality, while each also finds the composer in full command of the duo combination as a partnership of equals. Full marks then to the collaboration of Shaham and Erez, and to the Hyperion recording, which has such a natural perspective. For example, the violin tone in climactic passages, such as the second movement of Op 8, is particularly imposing and effective. The two players bring to the music a spontaneous flow … as a mark of their success, great moments such as the arrival of the ‘big tune’ in the dance-like finale of the Sonata No 3 can be heard for all they are worth’ (MusicWeb International)

'In these brilliant, exuberant and flawless performances technical means and exquisite interpretations are bound together in a pure and attractive manner … prick up your ears especially for the magnificent transition to melancholy in the Allegretto tranquillo of Sonata No 2 … this is a superb duo' (Luister, Netherlands)

'Hagai Shaham et Arnon Erez ont su nous faire entendre tour à tour les motifs principaux sans véritable 'amalgame' de leurs voix, ont pu trouver une grande homogénéité de style et un parfait équilibre sonore et ont réussi à faire resortir toutes les innovations mélodiques, harmoniques et rythmiques imaginées par Grieg' (Classica, France)

Violin Sonata No 3 in C minor, Op 45

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Although there were only two years between the first two violin sonatas, the Violin Sonata No 3 in C minor, Op 45, was not to follow for almost two decades: the last piece of chamber music Grieg completed, it was composed—at Grieg’s home, Troldhaugen, outside Bergen—in the second half of 1886, just spilling into the first days of 1887.

The dark tone of No 3 sets it a considerable distance away from the lyrical enthusiasms of its two predecessors. Its formal subtlety is striking; and the explicit nationalism, intermittent in the First, thoroughgoing in the Second, has given way to the ‘wider horizon’ of which Grieg wrote to Bjørnson. Here too, though, Grieg works his material with considerable subtlety: the first two subjects, which sound so different, are carved from the same shape, rooted in the ‘Grieg motif’; the development likewise sets off with a varied version of the first motif of the first subject. The music seems to stall briefly, as if in the eye of the hurricane, before the opening motif insists on its space, leading to an extended discussion of the different incarnations of its genetic material. The coda initially suggests the triumph of lyricism, over the arpeggiated chords heard early in the development, but the mood again darkens and the movement ends bleakly.

That grim, dissonant close contrasts all the more effectively with the light-filled melody in E major which opens the slow movement (as with the earlier two sonatas, it is also in ABA form)—one of Grieg’s happiest inspirations, and he was not a man short of happy inspirations. The brooding atmosphere of the central section, in the tonic minor, so starkly contrasts with its outer panels that once again the thematic interconnections are effectively disguised.

The finale shows Grieg once more rewriting form to his own ends: he builds it from two expository sections which are then repeated—the development is dispensed with entirely. It opens with the violin stomping out a march-rhythm over the piano’s broken chords (open fifths) before the instruments begin an increasingly furious exchange of ideas. It is quite some time—112 bars—before the pace slackens enough for the secondary theme to inch forward, a broad, yearning tune that begins low in the violin and gradually climbs upwards, falling back to allow the opening march-rhythms to resume. The Prestissimo coda transforms the angry opening theme into an exultant C major affirmation, swirling breathlessly to the close.

Grieg played the piano part in the premiere, in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on 10 December 1887; the violinist was the eminent Adolph Brodsky, who had given the first performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto six years earlier (and was later head of the Royal Manchester School of Music). The Third Sonata was immediately popular among domestic as well as professional music-makers: within months of its appearance it had sold 1,500 copies, and it has been a recital favourite of the world’s major violinists ever since.

from notes by Martin Anderson © 2006

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