Levon Ambartsumian / Anatoly Sheludyakov

Bartók: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Strauss: Sonata for Violin and Piano

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Violinist Levon Ambartsumian and pianist Anatoly Sheludyakov unite here to present two historically linked sonatas. The matching of these two works on a CD is quite appropriate and the explanation given in the liner notes is much appreciated. Both works were written very early in each composer's oeuvre. The Bartók, in fact, is so early that it is almost unrecognizable as being from Bartók, and the influence of Strauss' sonata can clearly be heard.

Sheludyakov does an adequate job of providing a stable background during both sonatas. He seems to sell himself short by not owning up to the piano's importance in both works, remaining in the shadow of the violin even when the piano is clearly the more interesting part. Ambartsumian's playing is much like a coin. On one side, his musicality is quite pleasing: long lines, graceful tempi, beautiful vibrato, and an abundant, powerful sound. The flip side of the coin, however, is a continuous problem with intonation ranging in severity from sloppy to unbearable. Despite the positive attributes of the recording, the nagging intonation difficulties make it thoroughly unpleasant to listen to.

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