Carolyn Huebl / Mark Wait

Alfred Schnittke: Complete Violin Sonatas

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The violin and piano duo of Carolyn Huebl and Mark Wait delivers a wonderful performance on this album of sonatas by Alfred Schnittke. Though the sonatas encompass a wide variety of styles, Huebl tackles them all with solid technique, exciting bow strokes, and a range of emotions, with Wait anticipating her every move. Violin Sonata No. 1's introductory long, legato lines are punctuated briefly by the pianist, but by the second movement, the character has changed and one hears an impassioned violinist. Huebl's violin is liquid, especially on the high notes, with a poignancy and tenderness, but the piece concludes with a lively, fun dance between the violin and piano. The two instruments play with such perfect timing and coordination, something that is necessary for the piece not to become a disaster. Schnittke's second sonata is, as the title indicates, a quasi-sonata. No ordinary sonata would begin with a bang in the piano and a shriek in the violin and it would not feature such shimmering piano tremolos and bouncing bows such as one might hear in Paganini's Violin Concerto in D major. Schnittke is clearly playing with texture here, and it is interesting to hear how many different colors and timbres he can get out of just two instruments. The third sonata was written much later, in 1994, and it allows the listener to hear even more sides to these two artists. Huebl's lines maintain supple tension in the first movement, and the second movement is even more exciting because of the piano. The third movement is more melodic, with the violin playing in the lower register, and it reaches melancholy depths of emotion. The final movement may be without tempo, but the two of them play together in perfect synchronicity. Perhaps they saved the best for last: Schnittke's Violin Sonata from 1955 is only two movements and was written in his student days, not to be discovered until after his demise. This is the most tonal of the works on the album, the most melodic, and Huebl and Wait bring a tenderness and loveliness to their interpretation of the music. Schnittke fans will rejoice over this album of high quality musicianship; those new to the composer will find it exciting and challenging, yet not inaccessible.

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