The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: David Grimal (violin) Georges Pludermacher (piano)
Composer: Bartók, Debussy, Ravel

It’s encouraging to see performers embracing the opportunities provided by new technologies. Only a couple of months ago I welcomed Ruth Palmer’s engrossing documentary on Shostakovich which accompanied her Quartz coupling of the First Violin Concerto and Violin Sonata. David Grimal’s film (mostly in French with on-screen English subtitles) similarly goes behind the scenes and examines his preparations for this recording. Most revealing is a visit to northern India to work with local musicians in order to gain fresh perspectives for the Bartók Solo Sonata.

Grimal has been playing Bartók’s forbiddingly difficult masterwork for many years now – and it shows. Throughout a piece notorious for exposing any weaknesses in a player’s interpretative and technical arsenal, Grimal focuses the listener’s attention so firmly on the music’s profound internal logic that one is barely aware of the sleight-of-hand virtuosity involved. The long opening Ciaconna, which in even the most skilled hands can seem structurally diffuse, proceeds with a supreme sense of inevitability. Even the Presto finale, with its cascading moto perpetuo sequences and whiplash changes of mood, sounds utterly convincing here.

According to his friend Robert Godet, Debussy only completed his Violin Sonata ‘to get rid of the thing, spurred on as I was by my dear publisher’. The finale gave him continual problems, but listening to Grimal and Pludermacher rejoicing in the music’s supple stylistic interchanges, you’d never know it. Ravel’s elusively neo-Classical, jazz cool also finds an ideal partner in Grimal’s quickfire emotional reflexes. The recording flawlessly projects the palpable physical intensity of these fine performances.