Robert Schumann's sonatas for violin and piano have never been central repertory works. They date from the end of Schumann's creative life, and the Violin Sonata No. 3, with two movements added to two previously composed for the collaborative so-called F-A-E Sonata, was among the last things he wrote before insanity set in. The cover gimmick on this Albany-label release, with the word "two" crossed out in the subtitle indicating the number of sonatas and replaced by a "three," is really unnecessary; as the notes by the performers themselves indicate, none of the three works is really well known. The Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, WoO 2, has been performed several times and is in no way a rediscovery here. The sonatas, especially the first one (odd, in that Schumann himself was dissatisfied with it), have never been abundantly performed, and these straighforward readings by American violinist Jennifer Frautschi and pianist John Blacklow are welcome. These pieces seem to be on the upswing in critical esteem; the first two are initially a bit shapeless, but they show Schumann working out the kinds of intricate motivic connections that characterize the sonatas of Brahms, who probably heard them soon after they were composed. They fare well in performances like Frautschi's, which feature clean technique and don't get in the way of the music; attempts to make them into Romantic poetry fail. She is a bit faster than usual in the outer movements and a bit slower in the more melodic slow movments, which makes sense. The third sonata, which Clara Schumann suppressed, is a different thing, with four seemingly unconnected movements. Even their order is not certain, and some performers reverse the two central movements from the order in which Frautschi has them here. The outer movements, the newly composed ones, are a bit mysterious, and here again Frautschi seems attuned to the work. A recording of straight Romantic repertory is an oddity for the Albany label, which mostly specializes in contemporary composition, and the sound is just adequate. But this is recommended for the growing number of devotees of the doomed Schumann's last works.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105|
|Violin Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121|
|Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, WoO 2|