The Milstein sisters go in search of a musical madeleine

Maria nathalia milstein la sonate de vinteuil a 1

The Strad Issue: January 2018  
Description: The Milstein sisters go in search of a musical madeleine  
Musicians: Maria Milstein (violin) Nathalia Milstein (piano)  
Works: PIERNÉ Violin Sonata op.36, SAINT-SAËNS Violin Sonata no.1 in D minor op.75, HAHN À Chloris; L’heure exquise, DEBUSSY Violin Sonata in G minor  
Catalogue Number: MIRARE MIR 384

Sisters Maria and Nathalia Milstein (no relation to Nathan) go on a Proustian search for the musical equivalent of the madeleine moment, also related in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Here the trigger for involuntary memories is not a golden sponge cake but a ‘petite phrase’ from a violin sonata that the character Swann obsessively recalls from a sonata by the (fictional) composer Vinteuil.

Maria Milstein brings a charming art nouveau-esque lightness of expression to the first movement of Pierné’s Violin Sonata – spontaneous and finely detailed, while the middle movement’s lilting Allegretto presents a gently nostalgic atmosphere that itself warrants its place on this disc. In Saint-Saëns’s Violin Sonata no.1 there is a balance of turbulent energy and lightness of touch. The speed and evenness of articulation of both Milsteins in the finale is breathtaking.

Debussy’s Sonata drags us firmly into the 20th century. There’s an extent here to which Milstein’s playing, echoed in the recording, rejects extreme foregrounding, but this also makes for an aptly removed – or ‘remembered’ – experience if you want to hear it that way. Two songs of love by Hahn complete the disc, of which L’heure exquise is indeed exquisite.