Recorded in Czech Radio Studio 2, Brno on 28 October 1997 (Korngold) and Czech Radio Studio 1, Prague on 25 September 2003
CD No: CLARTON CQ0059-2 Duration: 73 minutes Reviewed: September 2005
Korngold & Strauss Violin Sonatas
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
The music of Richard Strauss and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are linked by more than the aesthetics of their era. Not for nothing was Korngold during his heyday as creator of the operas Die tote Stadt and Das Wunder der Heliane frequently referred to as the older composer's natural successor: a status that the former unable to return to Vienna until the passing of the Third Reich, by which time his star had waned was destined never to enjoy. A further connection is that both composers often had recourse to chamber genres in their formative years only to largely or, in the case of Strauss, entirely abandon it once their reputation was established. This CD brings together the single violin sonata that each essayed, in a coupling both instructive and thought-provoking.
It says much for Frantiek Novotný's sympathy with the idiom that the 15-year-old Korngold's sonata emerges with greater cohesion that this expansive, even prolix work actually possesses. The opening Moderato is thoughtfully dispatched, but not lingered over unduly while the scherzo has an engaging character such as keeps its rather overbearing nature in check. Moreover, by rendering the songful Adagio and ingratiating finale as respective components of a larger overall span, Novotný brings them
into proportion with the earlier movements ensuring a better formal balance than would otherwise be the case.
Nevertheless, the added seniority of Strauss when he wrote his sonata in 1887 is clear not just from the greater formal security of each movement, but also the tonal clarity by which the lengthy outer movements are governed; neither outstays its welcome. Much of the responsibility for this lies with the piano part, in which Serguei Milstein makes a fine showing as in the rhapsodic
central Andante, an instrumental scena which is uncannily prescient of the opera composer to come.
The recorded sound captures the extent of Novotný's eloquent and unaffected tone, and balance with the piano is near ideal even if the latter could have done with a degree more spatial depth. Korngold expert Brendon Carroll writes an extensive, primarily biographical (and rather too partisan!) booklet note considers the relationship between the composers at greater length. Other fine recordings of both works are currently available among them Detlef Hahn (ASV) for Korngold, and Kyung-Wha Chung (DG) for Strauss but anyone requiring this coupling will not be disappointed by the present disc.