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Ravel, Bloch & Janacek - Violin Sonatas

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) : Violin Sonata in G major Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) : Violin Sonata No. 2, "Poeme Mystique" Leos Janacek (1854-1928) : Violin Sonata JW VII/7

Christina Åstrand (violin) Per Salo (piano)

Orchid Classics ORC100022 (DRSO’s Concert Hall, May 2012, CD + DVD - price as one)

This is a remarkable - indeed, to my knowledge unique - recording project from the leader and pianist of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Both are, unsurprisingly, superb musicians and chamber music partners. They give exemplary accounts of three important 20 C violin sonatas, two of them increasingly well known and admired, Bloch's less so.

What is special is the visual treatment of the DVD, superbly filmed in Blu-ray quality definition, thought they are not Blu-ray filmings and will play on any DVD machines.

The recordings were made separately, the CD in February 2011 at Studio 2, Danish Radio, Copenhagen; the DVD the following November at the Concert Hall there, to spectacular result.

The sound for both is in the safe hands of Aksel Trige, the elaborate, innovative filming under a team headed by Arne J Rasmussen. What is new (to me) is that there is no conventional cutting for close ups etc; instead, the camera(s) move freely around, pointing the strikingly contrasting lighting of the hall and the different costumes chosen to perform each work (nothing to be frightened of there!).

None of this comes over (to us) as gimmicky; the fluid movementss of focus reflect the music in a way which gradually takes over - I was at first worried by the transient elongation of the Fazioli grand but quickly accepted it.

The filming took place in the marvellous new Copenhagen concert hall and these musicians, who play there regularly, have deliberately given each work a separate visual imagery, which complement each other. I have concentrated on the presentation, but have no doubt - each performance is competitive and these modern digital accounts have nothing to fear from comparisons (Gramophone 1958 reviews early performances of the Bloch, including by Heifetz, and ASV has Friedman c. 1990).

If the idea of the special visual treatment puts you off, there is always the CD sound-only performance of the programme to enjoy. Christina Åstrand & Per Salo leave me eager to hear their other recordings of Nielsen, Norgaard etc.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Nielsen music for Violin and Piano

Christina Åstrand & Per Salo

I first heard music by Nielsen around 1951, at Robert Simpson & Harold Truscott's Exploratory Concert Society which met in London's Regent Street, and to which I was a devotee - and have remained a musical explorer ever after, as the listings in Musical Pointers will substantiate.

Nielsen's 2nd violin sonata made a lasting impression, with its strange marking "con tiepidezza" and the bizarre, unpredictable "allegro piacevole" finale, which stuck in the memory ever since. I may however not have actually heard it again until kindly receiving this valuable CD, in which the duo provide the whole of Nielsen's oeuvre for violin and violin/piano duo.


See also http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/NielsenViolinStrings.htm