The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: An unyielding coupling of two Romantic sonatas
Musicians: Bruno Monteiro (violin) JoÁo Paulo Santos (piano)
Composer: Saint-Saëns, Strauss

Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro completed his studies in the US and this is his seventh recital disc, following releases of Grieg, Franck, Fauré, Respighi, Prokofiev and others. The pairing on this release is interesting not only for its stylistic contrast but also in that Saint-Saëns came to the violin sonata aged 50, while Strauss’s ebullient work dates from his twenties.

Monteiro’s tone is far from unpleasant in the Saint-Saëns, but has a sturdy, unyielding sound that is resistant to transformations of colour or expressive inflection, leading to a ‘pushed’ quality. Technically all is present and correct, but there’s little sense of Monteiro championing the work: the scherzo-like pianists’ five-finger exercise in the latter part of the second movement soon loses its lightness of touch.

Monteiro responds better to the full-blooded Romanticism of Strauss’s Sonata, and its more fluid form helps him to trace the contours of the work. He is also clearly excited by what must be one of the most gratifying of all violin melodies, in the second movement. Monteiro is in suitably ardent, heroic mode in the finale but there’s strong competition – not least from Sarah Chang and Tasmin Little – even in this relatively rarely heard work. The recording itself is occasionally marred by what appears to be liberally applied reverberation.