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Schumann Complete Violin Sonatas

Jennifer Koh (violin) Reiko Uchida (piano)

Cedille CDR 90000 095

One reads so often that these works are ‘emerging from unjustified neglect' that they must be well known by now… or not? Certainly, the field is not nearly as crowded as for the equivalent Beethoven,   Brahms or Franck sonatas.

In her booklet notes, Koh speaks of the sense of tenderness and vulnerability one encounters in Schumann's work. Quite right, but the sense of emotional bursting the bounds of control, is much less apparent. However heartfelt her written opinion, this recording lacks the fire and anguish found in the best recordings of the work. Koh and Uchida play with great neatness and technical facility, but not such great character.

Op 105 is especially timid, with a self-effacing first movement and a middle movement more notable for control than the schizophrenic mixture of innocence and despair with which Schumann wrote it. The finale too, is held firmly in check, not least by a cautious tempo. In Op 121, Koh is more relaxed and extrovert, but remains earthbound.

It is a pleasant surprise to find that the Schumann Third Violin sonata is included on the disc. The latter half of this was part of the FAE sonata written collaboratively as a present for Joachim, of which only the scherzo (of course by Brahms) remains familiar. The finale, however, must have been very familiar to Fauré , who shamelessly lifted and augmented to great effect a rising scale motif when writing the opening of his Op 13 Violin sonata.

Schumann later wrote the first two movements so his portion could stand on its own as a sonata; the additions do not seem that inspired and Clara Schumann's suppression of the work (which was then hidden for a hundred years) may well have been more aesthetic, than, as was claimed, emotional.

Bright, vivid recorded sound, and good balance between the performers. A good disc and pleasant listening, but no substitute, in the passion stakes, for Kremer with either Argerich or Maisenberg . Those who prefer this more interiorised approach may also find the impeccably crafted Marwood /Tomes a better bet.

Ying Chang