Hagai Shaham / Arnon Erez

Dohnányi, Janácek: Violin Sonatas

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The violin sonatas, and indeed the vast majority of the works for violin and piano, by Dohnányi and Janácek are rarely performed in the concert hall and even less frequently recorded. Neither of the sonatas represent the pinnacle in either composer's compositional arsenal. Dohnányi's contribution, like many of his works, is highly romantic with lush melodies and rich harmonies. Janácek also does not stray far from his norm with sonatas featuring many fragmentary melodies and angular harmonies. In both cases, performances by musicians who do not have a clear plan as to their execution leave listeners struggling to digest exactly what' going on in the music. This Hyperion album with violinist Hagai Shaham and pianist Arnon Erez is sadly no different. Both Shaham and Erez possess a reasonably strong technique (although Shaham's intonation is sometimes shaky), but both seem to be doing their thing and rarely meeting up in the middle to produce something that can truly be considered chamber music. The duo also tends to focus on the often overwrought nature of their entire program, accentuated with intense, non-stop vibrato, exaggerated accents, and slides into big shifts, rather than giving listeners a break with a bit of simplicity and delicacy. There's just not enough clear-cut direction and intentionality to their playing, and certainly not enough of a unified concept of the score, to elevate these works to a position tantamount to others written around the same time.

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