Honegger: Complete Violin Sonatas / Kayaleh

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A fine guide with performances as subtle as they are perceptive.

It’s very unusual to find all Honegger’s Violin Sonatas — which includes the solo sonata of 1940 — grouped together in one disc. In fact I’m not aware of another such coupling in the current catalogue, which gives this budget price entrant cachet. Even better, the performances are persuasive and finely played and recorded.
This would amount to a recommendation even were the music not so attractive, which is not to say it’s transparent, as there are moments of occlusion and introspection along the way. The First Sonata is actually the unnumbered D minor of 1912. I agree wholly with Anyssa Neumann’s booklet notes that the opening embeds genuine ‘pathos’—it’s the pathos of popular song, in my view, to which Laurence Kayaleh responds with pervasive and elegant portamenti and effusive lyric intensity. There’s a degree of agitato in this work and Brahmsian striving, and it’s understandable that it was not published during Honegger’s lifetime in a sense, given the influences. But it’s still a big, confident utterance from the young composer. The slow movement is engagingly done, with its odd Delian moments, and the March section is well characterised. The confident and puckish finale is interrupted by a moment of baroque reportage, before a nobly conceived maestoso sweeps us to the finish. As she does throughout, Kayaleh plays with a refined tonal palette. She doesn’t make a big sound, but it is finely coloured.
The first numbered sonata was written during the last two years of the First World War. It’s a more focused work, less effusive, and sites the fast movement centrally between two essentially slow ones. The central panel of the Presto is played with the mute, and the whole thing is freely ruminative, though I detect Franck still in his musical handwriting. Stark intoning begins the finale, and here Kayaleh powerfully intensifies her vibrato width. It’s hard not to read into this movement something of the same spirit, but not the same means, that informs John Ireland’s contemporaneous Second Violin Sonata.
By contrast the 1919 Second Sonata has rather dreamlike qualities. It takes in a fugal moment, whilst remaining strongly chromatic, indeed compact in its reach — it’s 12 minutes in length in this performance. The finale’s ebullience removes the rather heavy atmosphere brilliantly, fully conveyed by Kayaleh and Paul Stewart. The solo sonata is becoming ever more popular and this performance will not harm that status in any way. What I like especially is the generosity of her grazioso phrasing in the Allegretto; delightfully done.
So if you lack these sonatas, or are curious about Honegger’s approach to them, this disc will stand as a fine guide with performances as subtle as they are perceptive.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International  

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8572192

  • UPC: 747313219278

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Arthur Honegger

  • Performer: Laurence Kayaleh, Paul Stewart