The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: Reference accounts of Ravel’s complete chamber music for violin
Musicians: Lena Neudauer (violin) Julian Steckel (cello) Paul Rivinius (piano)
Composer: Ravel

The young German-born violinist Lena Neudauer has here laid down what is my new benchmark for recorded performances of the two Ravel violin sonatas. Both works thrive on the multitude of subtle colours and nuances that she brings to the music, and her tempos and shaping of phrases have a natural flow that speaks of a soloist at one with the composer. One need only go to the ‘Blues’ movement of the G major Sonata to find Neudauer perfectly at home in the music’s laid-back atmosphere, just a fraction behind the beat and sliding up to the note with jazzy beauty.

Both scores call for an equally outstanding pianist, and in Paul Rivinius she has a partner who accommodates her every rhythmic twist and turn, and is technically superb. Neudauer and cellist Julian Steckel are locked in earnest or fiery dialogue as the first two movements of the Sonata for violin and cello dictate, and their finale is shaped into a hectic whirlwind where precise intonation never falters.   

There are certainly more overtly virtuosic accounts of Tzigane on disc, but none played with greater accuracy, and it is refreshing to hear such engaging performances of the shorter works on the CD. Balance and sound quality are admirable.