Assured accounts of two demanding sonatas are let down by the acoustic

Anne Harvey-Nagl: Respighi, Strauss

Anne Harvey-Nagl: Respighi, Strauss

The Strad Issue: December 2023

Description: Assured accounts of two demanding sonatas are let down by the acoustic

Musicians: Anne Harvey-Nagl (violin) Julia Maria Sliwa (piano)

Works: Respighi: Violin Sonata in B minor. Strauss: Violin Sonata in E flat major op.18

Catalogue number: PALADINO MUSIC PMR0129

This CD is sadly hampered by a muddy recording which makes the violin sound muted and its tone unduly woody on the lower strings. In the first movement of Strauss’s sonata Harvey-Nagl is sometimes indistinct, which is a shame. She catches the breadth and sweep of the opening paragraph before demonstrating lyrical finesse in the wide-ranging melodic writing. Her approach to the steadily unfolding second movement is thoughtful and exploratory, just as its title, ‘Improvisation’, suggests. The two players make neat work of their quirky dialogue in the finale, although the recorded balance rather favours the piano, but they never quite take joyful flight.

Respighi, like Strauss, was a master of orchestral writing, and in both their sonatas there is a sense at times that a wider instrumental palette is lurking within. In the first movement pianist Julia Maria Sliwa skilfully opens out and balances the busy textures as Harvey-Nagl soars above in ecstatic melody and weaves through Respighi’s sinuous lines. The two of them deftly negotiate the tricksy, unsettling rhythms of the Andante, its pulse constantly subdividing into fives and sixes. Harvey-Nagl despatches the technical demands of the final Passacaglia with flair, and produces some affecting, long-breathed playing in the lyrical passages.