Founded in London in 1989 by violin expert Peter Biddulph, the Biddulph label ahs become synonymous with historical string instrument recordings. Names feeatured include Menuhin, Thinaud, Kreisler and Szigeti, to name but a few. The label has also released some original recordings, of which this delighterul disc forms a part.
This is a new recording - in fact it's the first ever digital recording of the complete Carl Maria von Weber's Violin Sonatas - an astonishing gap in the catalogue, as you'll hera. These works are pure Weber: at times dramatic, at times profound, at times playful. We should remember that Weber was one of the great melodists (remember the great melodies in his opera Der Freischütz?).
Recorded at the Curtis Institute in the States under the watchful ear (!) of Producer Eric Wen, this is a a disc of purest joy. Weber wrote his Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano in 1810 (first published by Simrock as Six sonates progressives, Op. 10, later appearing in Jähns' work catalogue as "J. 99-104").
With the appearance of an "Air polonaise" in the second sonata and an "Air russe" in the fifth, Weber takes us close to the feel of his stage works; Wayne Kiley's booklet notes point out that the sixth and final sonata invokes the world of opera buffa.
Violinist Arold Steinhardt (born 1937) has an impeccable pedigree: he received lessons from Toscha Seidel and Caorl Moldrem (both students of Leopold Auer) before studying at Curtis with Ivan Galamian. Steinhardt was one of the founding members of the Guarneri String Quartet. While that quartet retured in 2009, Steihnardt continues his lineage by teaching at the Curtis Institute. He has also wrtten two books, Indivisible By Four and Violin Dreams (Amazon links below). The pianist, Seymour Lipkin, also hails from the Curtis Institte of Music (which he entered at age eleven!) - he enjoyed lessons there with Serkin and Horszowski. He as accommpanist for Heifetz'stours for the US Armed Forces during World War II. A respected concert pianist, Lipkin is a fervent chamber musician - and a resoected conductor! Lipkin passed away in 2015.
Listen to the very first movement of the first sonata (F-Major) to get a flavour of thes ewonderful works:
Weber proved his worth when it comes to profundity in Der Freischütz, but we can find it here, too. Here's the Adagio from the Second Sonata (G-Major):
The Second Sonata begins with a "Carattere Espagnuolo" Iin Spanish character) and closes with an "Air Polonais". Each Sonata has its own flavour, its own character, which makes this set a fascinating experience. here's the finale of No. 2, that "Air Polonais," which in its tripping-along playfulness possibly represents teh Weber we all know and love:
... and for purely pianistic delight and legerdemain from Lipkin, let's hear the first movement of the Fifth Sonata (A-Major), which takes a theme from Weber's siilarly rarely-heard opera Silvana as its basis:
It's probably only right to end with one of Weber's favoured dance forms, the Polacca, played with greta spirit by Steinhardt and Lipkin:
This disc offers a fabulous way to expand one's knowledge and admiration of Carl Maria von Weber: it would be hard to imagine performances finer than these.