Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer: The Berlin Recital

Album cover art for upc 5099969339929
Label: EMI
Catalog: 5099969339929
Format: CD

Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer

Schumann: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D minor; Kinderszenen
Bartok: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1; Sonata for Solo Violin
Fritz Kreisler: Liebesleid; Schön Rosmarin

Wholenote Discoveries - September 2009
The first thing that strikes you about this 2CD set, recorded in concert at the Berlin Philharmonie in December 2006, is the obvious disparity between the two featured composers, Schumann and Bartok. The links suggested in the booklet notes - two pianist-composers who wrote for every musical genre and were both interested in musical education - are unconvincing and tenuous at best, but what does make these two an interesting pairing is not their supposed similarities but their clear and contrasting differences. Each is represented by a sonata for violin and piano - No.2 of Schumann, No.1 of Bartok - and a solo work - Bartok's solo violin sonata for Kremer and Schumann's Kinderszenen for Argerich. The duo works could not be more different in sound or style, with Schumann's conservative approach treating the somewhat subdued violin as part of the overall texture, while Bartok treats the two instruments independently, making great technical demands of the players. Kremer and Argerich have been performing together for many years (they recorded the Schumann sonatas for DGG in 1986) and it shows - they clearly think and feel as one. The solo works, too, are simply light years apart. Both receive outstanding performances here, but Kremer's stunning playing in the fiendishly difficult Bartok really steals the show. Audience presence is apparent before and after each work, but thankfully never for a moment during the performances. Two Kreisler encores, Liebeslied and Schon Rosmarin, round out this attractively-priced set. Terry Robbins
Pre-order your copy before the May 26th release date!!!
This concert was recorded live at Berlin’s Philharmonie in December 2006. The repertoire features Schumann’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D minor and Kinderszenen, as well as Bartók’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 and Sonata for Solo Violin. Two encores, Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid and Schön Rosmarin round out the release. “A summit of two musical giants,” wrote the Abendzeitung München, reviewing the concert. “They are chamber music’s dream couple […] The way they communicate musically cannot be surpassed by any other current duo” said the Münchner Merkur. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung summed up the concert with the words “chamber music is alive.” Interviewed in the film, Gidon Kremer muses about his decades-long partnership with Martha Argerich: “The paradox is that, even though we are not a couple in love, we speak an intimate language through our music of the kind that is usually only spoken between couples in love. It is even possible that, through our music, we can become even more closely entwined than a couple in love can be.” At first sight, Robert Schumann and Béla Bartók might not appear to have much in common. Schumann represented the German romantic tradition and favoured rich, full harmonies, while Bartók sought to escape from that sound world, his music tending toward “extremes of delicacy or sparseness, or of complexity or roughness, as his vision dictates.” Yet the two composers do have much in common: both were pianist-composers in whose output their own instrument retains a central place yet both had the ambition to reach out and embrace every musical genre; both Schumann and Bartok maintained a strong interest in music education and both promoted the status of music in the wider cultural sphere. Schumann’s second sonata, in D minor Op. 121, composed in 1851, was dedicated to Ferdinand David, the dedicatee of Mendelssohn’s E-minor Violin Concerto. After Schumann’s death, the sonata was often performed by Joseph Joachim with the composer’s wife, Clara, at the piano. Kinderszenen dates from 1838, a period in which Schumann concentrated on music for solo piano. Kremer comments, “I love listening to Martha from backstage. I love the way she masterfully recreates the fragility of Schumann’s Kinderszenen. It is simply a heart-stopping experience.” Bartók completed the first of his two violin and piano sonatas in December 1921 and the second the following year. He dedicated both to Jelly d’Arányi, a brilliant young violinist whose playing thrilled him and with whom he fell in love. In both sonatas Bartók treats the two instruments as independent but complementary – they do not share material, as the violin and piano would do in classical duo sonatas. In November of 1943, Bartók met Yehudi Menuhin when he came to play the First Sonata for him, prior to a performance. This meeting inspired the composer’s Sonata for Solo Violin, which Menuhin premiered at Carnegie Hall the following year. Although its structure is traditional and it recalls the first Bach solo sonata, having a fugue as a second movement and a fast triple-time finale, its constant rhythmic inventiveness gives the work a sense of improvisatory freedom.

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