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Adrian Corleonis
Fanfare, November 2010

Delius was not at home with sonata form, resorting to it early and late as a very loose frame for his essentially rhapsodic thoughts, and each of the violin sonatas has its performance pitfalls—repetition devolving into longueurs, unevenness of inspiration, a wandering trajectory unresolved by sudden flourishes at the ends of movements, and so on. The Sonata in B, composed in 1892—that is, Delius at his greenest—vamps its improvisatory “finds” in a search for another inspired rush. Tasmin Little (Conifer 51315, Fanfare 22:1), with Piers Lane hand-in-glove, teeters between impetuosity and impatience, substituting élan for formal coherence, where Susanne Stanzeleit and Gusztáv Fenyő, in giving Delius’s lyricism its honeyed due, wander. In the numbered sonatas, Stanzeleit and Little are closely matched in sensitivity, milking the wonderstruck moments into mellifluous ennui. Little wins by a little—her tone is sweeter. Even in the Third Sonata, the shapeliest of them, this maundering, far from revealing expressive riches, smoothes Delius’s snap and swagger—his scherzando—in a prolonged tedium shown up by more highly inflected performances, for instance, in the Third, that by Alexander Barantschik, and in the First and Second, by Janice Graham, both winningly partnered by Israela Margalit (EMI 55399). But such comparisons are unfair to the artists; if the album jacket may be believed, Stanzeleit and Fenyő recorded these works in February 1994, and one may well wonder why we’re hearing them only now and what the artists’ spin on them might be today. Balance is excellent, neither instrument crowding the other, nor are they in the porches of your ears, though sound is detailed and rich. On a PC the program comes up in kanji.

Em Marshall
MusicWeb International, April 2010

This Naxos disc features all of Delius’s violin sonatas, from the 1892, discarded, sonata through to the third sonata, composed in 1930 with the help of Delius’s amanuensis, Eric Fenby. The sonatas are here presented chronologically, commencing with the Sonata in B major, which the composer discounted when he could not find a publisher for it—hence it was not issued until 1977, and is un-numbered.

Although the recording sets the violin a little far back—with the result that it perhaps comes across as a little restricted and lacking in fullness of tone—the first movement is nonetheless gloriously romantic, with insightful and radiant playing from Stanzeleit. Fenyo fully enters into the spirit of the work and is sensitive and accomplished—although possibly a little too strong at times. The second movement is rather restrained, but the performers create dramatic contrasts between the louder and quieter sections—a device which works well here. The final movement is given a powerful performance—Stanzeleit really captures this well, and the sonata ends on a strong and bold note.

Much of Stanzeleit‘s rendition of the 1915 (three-movement) first sonata is very idiomatic—she gets the feel of ‘the Delius sound’ well, and gives a particularly ecstatic performance of the final movement.

The second sonata was composed in 1923 when Delius was already an invalid. It could be argued to be the sonata that best encapsulates Delius’s ‘voice’. Stanzeleit here gives it a muscular and confident performance, getting into, and communicating, the idiom well.

The disc concludes with the third sonata. This is also well-played, with some pleasing shading in the violin tone in the second movement, and the performers also capture the quirkiness of this movement well.

There are several discs of Delius’s violin sonatas available, but this is a strong contender, and for a budget price disc you can’t go wrong with this recording.

Alan Becker
American Record Guide, November 2009

The present team includes a violinist who studied with Leonard Kogan and Nathan Milstein and a pianist descendent of Joseph Joachim. They are well up to the task of playing these works with insight and imagination…there is much to be said for the more reflective beauty of the opening of this recording…They are both sensitive players and have absorbed the Delius idiom…Lyndon Jenkins, Vice-President of the Delius Society, has prepared informative notes, as has Robert Threfalls, also of the Society.

Calum MacDonald
BBC Music Magazine, September 2009

In Susanne Stanzeleit and gustav Fenyo they have certainly found worthy interpreters: the subtlety of their rubato and the sheer responsive plasticity of Stanzeleit’s phrasing of the long melodic lines, which can so often seem to meander but here are a moment-to-moment index of feeling, are exemplary.

Ian Lace
MusicWeb International, September 2009

It seems such a pity that Delius’s chamber music, including his four sonatas for violin and piano, are so often ignored in favour of his larger-scale orchestral works. They are in fact quintessential Delius: dreamy, rhapsodic, sensual and subtly impressionistic.

Susanne Stanzeleit studied with such luminaries as Kogan, Milstein and Neaman. Gustáv Fenyö is a descendant of Joseph Joachim and one of Scotland’s leading musicians…The Naxos artists offer a forceful reading of the first movement of the 1892 (Op. posth.) Violin Sonata in B major its brio first pages sturdily stated…Delius’s Violin Sonata No. 1 was begun in 1905 when its first two movements were completed but it remained unfinished until 1915. Its predominant mood is of sweet reveries and nostalgia. The music is dance-like with snatches of bird-song melody and the odd passing cloud…the newcomers’ reading, although somewhat cooler, is quite moving.

The Second one-movement Violin Sonata, Delius’s shortest, was written only five years after the end of the Great War yet its prevalent character is one of optimism…The work is amazingly confident and firm considering the advance of the malady that was to cripple Delius’s remaining years. The last third or so of the work was apparently written down for him by his wife Jelka. Susanne Stanzeleit brings an engaging sweetness and sensitivity to [it].

Classic FM, August 2009

Susanne Stanzeleit engages powerfully and beautifully with the music ongoing melodising and finds much light and shade in the Third Sonata—composed with Eric Fenby’s assistance in Delius’s paralyzed old age and surely the finest of the numbered set of three. Also included is the ‘pre-First’ Sonata of 1892, a large-scale, sweepingly impressive piece of lyrical Romanticism.

James Leonard, June 2009

Violinist Susanne Stanzeleit and pianist Gusztav Fenyo do an outstanding job performing Delius’ four Violin Sonatas. In the three published Sonatas, their combination of sheer physical beauty and intense expressivity matches the works perfectly, and their enthusiasm makes a convincing case for the thoroughly conventional and early unpublished Sonata. Although Naxos’ digital sound is a bit thin in places, this disc will be well worth hearing by Delius’ fans.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

There was a time when Delius’s sonatas were placed on the scrap-heap of the violin repertoire, and only in recent times have the become better known. There was also an earlier 1892 sonata, never published in his lifetime but which has appeared on disc to complete the cycle. Dating from 1892 through to 1930, they spanned much of his career with the last two completed when he was so ill that he dictated them to his wife and finally to Eric Fenby. You would not describe them as typical of his style, their mood throughout being heavily laced with an aroma of romantic beauty. The violin writing is lyric, leaving the piano part as the more forceful part of the duo. In shape and size they are very different, the Second—in one continuous movement—very short, while the first and last are extended and in three movements.They have been fortunate in receiving extremely fine recordings, some made while Delius was alive, the legendary Albert Sammons setting the benchmark and remain unequalled. Here we have a British violinist, Susanne Stanzeleit, who counts Leonid Kogan and Nathan Milstein among her teachers. A champion of British music, you feel her affection for the music throughout. Maybe a few quibbles about intonation, but she produces that nice limpid tone the music demands, and in Gusztáv Fenyő she has a strong pianist whose dominance is helped by the recorded balance.

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