Music for Violin and Piano from 1917 & 1918 – Debussy, Elgar & Sibelius [Efi Christodoulou & Margaret Fingerhut; Guild]

0 of 5 stars

Sonata in G minor for Violin and Piano
Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano, Op.82
Six Humoresques, Opp.87 & 89 [arrangements for piano by Karl Ekman]

Efi Christodoulou (violin) & Margaret Fingerhut (piano)

Recorded 21-23 May 2010, Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2011
Duration: 59 minutes



An intriguing collection of music for violin and piano from 1917 and 1918, although unfortunately the recording, while very clear and appropriately intimate, tends to favour the violinist and make these pieces more for violin with piano. That imbalance – slight if noticeable, a consequence of the violinist being placed too forward rather than the piano being overly recessed – is immediately apparent in the opening work, the Violin Sonata by Debussy, and continues throughout the recital. In any case Efi Christodoulou is an up-front player and she doesn’t require such closeness to the listener. At the sessions for the Debussy she might have been encouraged to be less vibrant and a little more exploring of pianissimo and beyond as well as half-lights. As it is she rather dominates and Margaret Fingerhut is a little dwarfed in music that requires equality; and it may also be, for all that this pianist is an admirable artist, that Christodoulou is the bigger personality.

Elgar’s Violin Sonata is aggressively opened by both musicians; it’s a passion of sorts and there’s no doubting their virtuosity or that Christodoulou has pin-point intonation; yet an easing into the second subject and some more heart with it, something a little more winsome, would have been welcome. The recesses of the first movement are touched upon, however, and Christodoulou finds a greater range of timbre, but her outgoing personality really does become tiresome when so spot-lit, outgunning the piano. The second-movement ‘Romance’ is quite eloquently turned and develops quietly-stated if potent emotions, violinist and pianist sounding more as one. The ‘non troppo’ qualification for the Allegro finale is well observed, making for something amiable as well as conclusive.

Less familiar are the Humoresques that Sibelius wrote for violin and orchestra and which were collected under two opus numbers. This is wonderful music that is unfairly neglected. The arrangement for piano by Karl Ekman was made in 1923 and presumably then had the composer’s imprimatur. One misses the orchestra of course, but hopefully the making available of the with-piano versions will prompt greater awareness of miniatures that open up bigger worlds than their dimensions might suggest. Here is infinite variety. Christodoulou, if not quite matching Aaron Rosand’s version (with orchestra), is a sympathetic advocate of expressive, suggestive and sometimes-whimsical music, ‘light’ in the best sense of the word as well as being inimitable.

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