Beyond all argument, definitive recordings already exist for both works on this disc. How else, after all, could one describe David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter's 1969 recording of Shostakovich's Violin Sonata and Fyodor Druzhinin and Mikhael Muntyan's 1975 recording of the same composer's Viola Sonata? The players were the works' dedicatees, and their performances have an intensity and authenticity that could hardly be bettered. Despite this, however, performers keep on recording these works, and who can blame them? Two of the twentieth century's greatest works in their respective genres, Shostakovich's violin and viola sonatas are the quintessence of the composer's late style. Austere, hard, and unrelenting, they defy sentimentality in their determination to articulate the core facts of life and death and defy players to ignore their greatness.
And so here we have recordings by Swedish pianist Francisca Skoogh, Norwegian violinist Tino Fjeldli, and Swedish violist Erik Ryding. Though their performances are not at the same exalted level as the Oistrakh/Richter and Druzhinin/Muntyan performances, they are still terrific performances by first-rate players. With his rugged tone and robust technique, Fjeldli is a tougher, harsher violinist than Oistrakh and his Violin Sonata is edgier and angrier than his predecessor's. And with his rawer tone and muscular technique, Ryding is a more aggressive violist than Druzhinin and his Viola Sonata is less elegiac and more forceful than his forbearer's. Pianist Skoogh lacks the weight and power of Richter, but she has an impressive attack and a born talent for shaping her performance to match her partner. Recorded in close, clean digital sound, these should not be the only performances one hears of these works, but if one truly loves late Shostakovich, they are still well worth hearing.