First of all, this is a very beautifully recorded disc, Gearhart, with his creamy-sounding violin tone, seeming right in your listening room. Most reviewers will turn first to the unusual repertory presented here, but I couldn't help but comment on the full, rich sonics right off, sonics that, if you like up-close miking, you'll find of demonstration-caliber.
Now, what about that music? Casadesus (1899-1972), as most know, was a virtuoso pianist of the highest rank, but he also composed a substantial body of music, including symphonies, concertos, and chamber and vocal works. These compositions show him to be quite approachable, from the playful 1927 First Violin Sonata to the more mature Chausson Hommage, from 1955. Though the First is not to be dismissed, the better of the two sonatas on this CD is the 1941 Second, whose delightful second movement sounds like Ravel under the spell of Prokofieff. This work ought to be taken up by other violinists (and pianists – the keyboard writing is brilliant, too), not least because the ensuing Adagio has a lovely, if emotionally detached manner of great appeal.
The Suite for Two Violins, as pointed out in Gearhart's incisive and informative notes, is modeled on Baroque forms. Casadesus gives us a sort of neo-Classicism that sounds nothing like Stravinsky's from that time. Here the five movements that comprise the work effervesce with color and wit, and fully draw you into their modern Baroque world. What one notices about this work in particular is that it contains not one extra note, not one moment's dawdling. It's pure, masterfully-conceived music that suffers the ironic fate of existing only in the composer's manuscript. Surely some publisher will come forth now and publish this most attractive composition. The Chausson Hommage is another fine work, sweetly melancholy in the opening and playful and witty in the central and closing sections.
Violinist Fritz Gearhart, whose recent CD for Koch International of unpublished works for violin and piano by Quincy Porter was another impressive effort offering obscure but worthy music, plays with solid technique and incisive interpretive ability throughout. He is partnered by the quite able John Owings on piano. Kathryn Lucktenberg, who plays with Gearhart in the Oregon String Quartet, turns in splendid work in the Suite for Two Violins. If Ravel or Fauré had lived on a few decades more, they might well have turned out works like those included on this excellent CD. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 2002, Robert Cummings