The Strad Issue: January 2018
Description: Sounds of central Europe presented with improvisatory panache
Musicians: Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin) Huw Watkins (piano)
Works: DVOŘÁK Violin Sonata in F major; Four Romantic Pieces. JANÁČEK Violin Sonata. SUK Four Pieces op.17
Catalogue Number: SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD 510
Several previously neglected Romantic violin sonatas have made headway on disc in recent years – Grieg’s first two, the Mendelssohn F minor, and Schumann’s spring to mind – yet Dvořák’s op.57 is still a comparative rarity. It may lack the indelible tunefulness of, say, the late Piano Quintet, yet as Tamsin Waley-Cohen and regular piano partner Huw Watkins convey with enchanting eloquence and impassioned flair, it is a highly attractive work deserving of more than just the occasional airing. Waley-Cohen captures the score’s spirit of infectious bonhomie to perfection, and brings a similar air of uncluttered simplicity and ingenuousness to the Four Romantic Pieces, creating the bracing impression of inspired improvisation.
Until fairly recently, it was customary to play only selected movements from Josef Suk’s op.17 (another set of four Romantic pieces) – Itzhak Perlman, for example, recorded the Burleska and Un poco triste – so it is particularly valuable to hear all four pieces together, especially as Waley-Cohen proves so smoulderingly commanding in the opening ‘Quasi balata’ and ‘Appassionato’. To finish, Janáček’s four-movement sonata, in which this gifted duo refreshingly exchanges the percussive tendency and angular introspection of some recent accounts for a spiritually intense espressivo reminiscent of Yehudi Menuhin in his prime.