Markus Wolf / Julian Riem

Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner: Violinsonaten

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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell

Chamber music is not likely the first medium that comes to mind when thinking of composers like Puccini, Strauss, Bruckner, or many others whose fame came from much larger-scale works. Yet all of these composers at one time or another delved at least briefly into chamber music. Early in his career, Strauss wrote sonatas for both violin and cello with piano, though neither of these pieces is currently played as frequently as it should be. The violin sonata in particular, heard on this album, is a tremendous testament to the young Richard Strauss' understanding of the essence of Romanticism and yet we can hear glimpses of what is to come later in his career. Some 30 years later comes another violin sonata, this one by Hans Pfitzner, which again is mysteriously absent from most recital halls. Like Strauss, Pfitzner's sonata gives listeners a glimpse at what is to come through his (at the time) progressive explorations of harmony and tonality. Both of these sonatas are given especially successful performances by violinist Markus Wolf and pianist Julian Riem, who do an exemplary job simultaneously highlighting each piece's Romantic and progressive qualities. Wolf's sound is very warm and inviting while easily rising above the piano. The dialogue between the two instruments is seamless and balance is totally fluid, allowing each instrument to rise to the forefront when appropriate. Anyone who lacks quality recordings of these oft overlooked pieces of chamber music would do well to add this album to their collection.

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