The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Michael Dinnebier (violin) Angela-Charlott Bieber (piano)
Composer: Prokofiev, Shostakovich

A product of the War years when Stalin’s henchmen were generally more tolerant of less than optimistic musical statements, Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata just got under the wire before the post-war crackdown. Both Isaac Stern (Sony) and Itzhak Perlman (RCA) tend to emphasise the music’s physical impact and sense of desolate intensity, whereas Michael Dinnebier – leader of the Dimenati Quartet between 2001 and 2007 – is closer to Erik Schumann (AVI-Musik) in taking a gentler view, giving the music more room to breathe without throttling it into submission. As a result, a work that can often emerge as emotionally cool and unyielding sounds utterly captivating, especially during the finale, which for once is allowed to flow naturally by, rather than continually made to stamp its musical feet.  

Dinnebier’s ability to get to the emotional heart of the matter without thrusting away restlessly pays special dividends in the Shostakovich sonata. Rather than approaching this deeply unsettling work from the standpoint of a concerto soloist, Dinnebier gently probes its obfuscating musical euphemisms with a chamber-scale sensitivity and captivating purity of line. Angela-Charlott Bieber complements Dinnebier’s enviably supple musical responses to perfection, and the engineering thankfully avoids the temptation to highlight Dinnebier’s small-scale sound world of introspective enchantment.