SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

R. STRAUSS: Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 18; ENESCU: Violin Sonata in a, Op. 25 – Kolbjorn Holthe, violin/ Tor Espen Aspaas, piano – 2L

Gorgeous playing of these diligently conceived strict sonata form pieces waves a rhapsody of lush romanticism.

Published on March 2, 2013

R. STRAUSS: Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 18; ENESCU: Violin Sonata in a, Op. 25 – Kolbjorn Holthe, violin/ Tor Espen Aspaas, piano – 2L

R. STRAUSS: Violin Sonata in E-flat, Op. 18; ENESCU: Violin Sonata in a, Op. 25 – Kolbjorn Holthe, violin/ Tor Espen Aspaas, piano – 2L multichannel SACD 2L34SACD, 57:40 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The Strauss sonata has been picking up a lot of steam recently, with a number of recordings, some SACD, in the offing. This is a good thing, as the work by the young 23-year-old composer has received the attention it deserves, yet at the same time we must be careful to not overestimate the virtues of the piece either. Surely the claim made by the notes to this recording that “almost everything Strauss composed from the 1890s to the Four Last Songs in 1949 can be traced back to a point of origination in the Violin Sonata” is silly hyperbole. Strauss, while paying unconscious homage to Beethoven and even a little to Brahms, was the ultimate in classical consideration in this work, stretching his development of the motives in the three movements to their logical conclusions, even in the  “improvisation” second movement, the heart of the work. Though a piano sonata and cello sonata came before this piece, it was here that Strauss perfected, as far as he was able to, his use of sonata form. He would abandon it after this composition. The piece has many fine recordings though it is not considered a standard of the repertory by any means. This one is captured in soft, serene surround sound and played perfectly.

The Third Sonata of Enescu, with its folk elements and quarter-tone sounds, is not as easily accessible in terms of sonata form, yet is no less enmeshed in that structure than the Strauss. But whereas the Strauss is a superlative work that falls short of true genius, Enescu revels in genius of the highest order with a work of mystery and darkness, a tone that was to get darker in each explanation for the piece that Enescu offered as the years went by. But underneath this paean to the suffering of his Romanian compatriots always retains a sense of life affirmation, a common thread in all his music.

Our two partners play this one even better, with a lot of wit, substance, and affectingly passionate emotion. 2L captures it all beautifully in some remarkable surround sound. Recommended!

—Steven Ritter




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