This beautifully recorded recital of some of Ravel’s fastidiously crafted chamber works opens with a fiery performance of the well-known Tzigane in its original form for violin and piano, although today it is more often heard in the concert hall in Ravel’s later orchestration. Written in 1924 for the charismatic Hungarian virtuoso violinist Jelly D’Aranyi, it is one of the great showpieces of the violin repertoire.
From the long opening cadenza it is clear that Kristian Winther is a player whose technique is equal to the formidable demands placed upon it. He begins thoughtfully, gradually building up the tension before unleashing a dazzling display of pyrotechnics. At the first performance of Tzigane in 1924 a type of prepared piano called a luthéal was used which produced a striking cimbalon-like effect that can be heard on a Decca recording (RBCD only) by Chantal Juillet and Pascal Rogé. In this recording the equally accomplished Anthony Romaniuk uses a normal piano and the sound of his mellow Steinway contrasts well with that of his partner.
Throughout this disc one is aware of a natural symbiosis between these two musicians and this is particularly evident in their engaging account of the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano. Winther and Romaniuk’s cool and fluent playing in the opening ‘Allegretto’ allows appreciation of their wide range of tone colour. A ‘Perpetuum Mobile’, notable for its lightness and delicacy, succeeds a witty account of the ‘Blues’, played with the appropriate sleaze. By contrast Winther and Romaniuk marvellously capture the languor of Pièce en form of Habañera and are equally compelling in the beguiling Deux mélodies hébraïques.
In the remarkable Sonate pour violin and violincelle Kristian Winther is joined by the cellist Michelle Wood. This sonata, dedicated to the memory of Debussy, is uncompromisingly spare in texture and is strongly influenced by the music of Bartok (particularly the String Quartets). In their performance both players certainly maximize the range of moods and dynamic contrasts in each of the four movements. The two instruments blend beautifully in the more reflective sections (I and III) while the finely balanced recording ensures that they each remain perfectly differentiated to the ear. The ‘Trés vif’ (II) is played with astounding ferocity and the ‘Vif, avec entrain’ (IV) with all the panache for which one could ask.
Melba’s recording, made in the Iwaki Auditorium in March 2007, has great presence and tonal veracity, the multi-channel layer providing just the usual extra ambience and space round the instruments. Presentation is up to Melba’s usual exacting standard and includes excellent notes on the composer and this music by William Yeoman.
Devotees of Ravel’s exquisite chamber music need look no further than this fine collection by these young Australian players.