Sonata for piano and violin
Suite No.1 in D for violin and piano
Philippe Graffin (violin) & Pascal Devoyon (piano)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2001
CD No: HYPERION CDA67220
Play the opening of Bruno Walter’s sonata to an innocent ear … who wrote this? Richard Strauss was my first thought; after four minutes, I had added Brahms and Korngold. Were Bruno Walter (1876-1962) not famous as a leading conductor of his day, would this 35-minute piece be worth resurrecting? Up to a point – I like the expansiveness of Walter’s structures and his methodical working out of material; there’s capability here if not distinctiveness.
Sonata for piano and violin – note the billing – was first performed in 1909. Its heart is the lengthy slow movement, personal and inward, ushering in melodic fragility and slow-march motif, Beethoven and Busoni suggested in the opening measures. A more declamatory, passionate outburst interrupts this solitary journey, one sustained, lyrical and compelling in its sparseness until romantic flames flicker again. The moderately paced finale is somewhat foursquare, overtly Brahmsian. Straussian melodic amplitude signals optimism; if the development is workmanlike, the distillation to a resolute homecoming is thoughtfully prepared.
Walter was a fine pianist, Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) a violinist. His half-hour, five-movement Suite makes for good, tuneful listening – the attractive, folksy melodic outline and pleasant nature recalls Dvorak. The Baroque gestures of the ’Andante sostenuto’ reveal Goldmark as tradition-minded. The middle ’Allegro ma non troppo’ is graceful and memorable, so too its successor; the varied finale sparkles with captivating ideas. This is thoroughly likeable and enjoyable music, skilfully written.
Philippe Graffin brings some Menuhin-like touches to his playing; sensitivity, affection and virtuosity are pleasingly melded and Devoyon is a tactful and imaginative pianist. The recording is ideally balanced and focussed.