Matthias Wollong

Wilhelm Furtwängler: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2

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Few would dare say with confidence that these 2004 recordings of Wilhelm Furtwängler's two violin sonatas by violinist Matthias Wollong with pianist Birgitta Wollenweber are better than the only previous recordings of the works, the 1994 D minor Sonata by violinist Dong-Suk Kang with pianist François Kerdoncuff or the 1989 D major Sonata by violinist Alexis Galperine also with Kerdoncuff -- primarily because few could endure sitting through two sets of performances of such massively written and monumentally tedious works. Written between conducting engagements by the great German conductor, Furtwängler's four-movement D minor Sonata from 1935 lasts more than 55 minutes while the three-movement D major Sonata from 1939 lasts nearly 46 minutes. Both are harmonically chromatic, formally titanic, emotionally excessive, and extremely expressive works that make enormous demands on the players -- and perhaps even more immense demands on the listener. Following the meandering thread of Furtwängler's thought through the 18-minute Allegro moderato that opens the D minor Sonata is exhausting and maintaining that level of concentration through to the end of the 18-minute Finale may be more than most listeners, even the most dedicated of the conductor's fans, can hope to accomplish. For the record, though, Wollong, with his ripe tone, and Wollenweber, with her big technique, are by far the better performers, particularly in CPO's clear, detailed sound.

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