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David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2019

Somewhere in the plethora of music composed by Joseph Joachim Raff, the five violin sonatas have become neglected, though at the time they were well received. It is said that the violin, which he was taught as a child, was his favourite instrument, which becomes a strange comment when in these two sonatas he gave so much to the piano that it became far more than an equal voice. The First dates from from 1854 while he was working for Liszt, who had just saved the young man from destitution, its structure, in the conventional four movements, having a very happy scherzo coming followed by a fulsome and passionate slow movement. Finally an intensely active finale with the exhortation by Raff that it should be ‘very determined’. The Second Sonata was completed in 1858, by which time he had become financially self-sufficient and had found a personal style of composition that moved him towards the musical world created by Schubert. Raff added a genial disposition, and, at times the bustling action, the tempo indication to all four movements being of urgency. The scherzo of vigorous charm, and even the ‘slow movement’ has the qualifying statement, ‘not too slow’. In both works the Canadian-based violinist, Laurence Kayaleh, is a most persuasive advocate, her intonation immaculate and her celebrated Guarneri violin sings eloquently. The French-Canadian pianist, Jean-Fabian Schneider, brings a welcome virtuosity to passages, such as those in the mercurial finale to the Second. Excellent sound engineering, and a discovery that offers many delights. © 2019 David’s Review Corner

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