1919 Coda: Janacek, Boulanger, Debussy, Elgar (Delphian)
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The title of this violin-piano recital requires some rationalization. By 1919, two of the named composers had been lifeless, and a 3rd was worn out. Solely Leos Janacek was firing on all cylinders — certainly, on extra cylinders than he ever had earlier than. If 1919 was a benchmark, it’s not evident from their lifecycles. Nonetheless, the yr does mark an end-point for the struggle period and these sonatas exist in that speedy previous, with no considered current or future.
The Janacek sonata, completed in 1915 and revised over six extra years, is a masterpiece composed in a vacuum. The composer, previous 60, was ready for Prague to take up his opera Jenufa, premiered in Brno in 1904. Till it reached the capital, he couldn’t go ahead. In 1915, Prague accepted the opera, albeit with extreme revisions. Janacek’s marriage was breaking down. Within the struggle, he hated Austria and Germany, craving for Czech independence. These impulses infuse the sonata with advanced and contradictory tensions. By 1919, Jenufa had been internationally acclaimed and Janacek was in love with an unattainable younger lady.
Claude Debussy was dying of rectal most cancers and German weapons may very well be heard in Paris as he composed a triptych of sonatas, of which that is the final and most intimate. For a person who held the world at arm’s size, this sonata is heat, participating but unsentimental. Its premiere in Might 1917 was the final live performance Debussy attended, ten months earlier than he died
Edward Elgar was recovering from throat surgical procedure when he wrote the violin-piano sonata on the finish of the Warfare. He went on to finish a piano quintet and the cello concerto however, after his spouse’s demise in 1920, wrote nothing extra of consequence. The sonata is, in some ways, his epitaph.
Lili Boulanger suffered continual sickness all through her brief life. She gained a coveted nationwide prize in 1913, however was lifeless 5 years later, aged 24. Her two brief items on this recital are indicative extra of promise than success.
Bringing these disparities to life are two UK-based musicians, the New Zealand violinist Benjamin Baker and the Hungarian pianist Daniel Lebhardt. In the event that they try slightly too exhausting for typical magnificence in Janacek, their austerity is ideal for Debussy and Elgar, evoking a restrained sympathy for these morbid confessions. The taking part in is marvellously poised, an exemplary idea album aptly tailored to every composer’s circumstances and individuality. Baker and Lebhardt inform 4 very human tales, every of them flawed. I used to be on the sting of my seat all through.
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