Friedrich Kuhlau: Violin Sonatas

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Composer: Friedrich Kuhlau
Artist: Giorgio Leonida Tosi baroque (violin), Paolo Porto (piano), Ileana Frontini (piano)

Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) was born in Hannover, but as a student he went to Denmark, where he stayed the rest of his life, becoming an important national composer.
Kuhlau was a near contemporary of Beethoven, and his style shares elements of that genius (alas not the genius…): rooted in the 17th century classicism it foreshadows the Romantic movement in a true expression of affect, daring dissonances and sudden harmonic changes, and a general expression of romantic moods as favoured in the fashionable salons.
Kuhlau is nowadays best known for his Sonatinas for amateur pianists, serving as a welcome alternative to the more classical sonatinas by Clementi.
This new recording present Kuhlau’s Violin Sonatas Op. 79, music of considerable drama, brilliance and virtuosity, but also of gentle lyricism and charm.
As interludes to these sonatas the piano duo Porto-Frontini plays two works for piano 4-hands, an Allegro Pathétique and an Adagio & Rondo.

Most of his chamber music features the flute, a commercially astute selection given the popularity of the instrument among amateur musicians at the time, even though Kuhlau was no flautist himself. There are, however, three piano quartets, a late string quartet closely modelled on Beethoven’s Op.132, and four violin sonatas. This Op.79 set was composed as a trio in Copenhagen in 1826, the year after he got drunk on champagne one evening with Beethoven, who wrote a canon at the time and sent it along later with a mock-apology: ‘In this case, I haven’t the slightest memory of what I wrote yesterday… Think of me now and again, your devoted Beethoven.’

All three sonatas are melodically fresh, dramatically imposing works that should not stand too shyly in the shadow of Beethoven’s contributions to the genre: the first and third are largely extrovert, whereas the second is thoughtful and intimate in character. The sonatas are juxtaposed here with late and brilliant works for piano four-hands which may reveal the influence of Schubert, so unconventional is their form, so bold the evocation of Romantic sonorities on the keyboard: on this album of historically informed performances by young Italian musicians, the instrument used is a Stein piano of Viennese manufacture, dating from 1830.

Played by Giorgio Leonida Tosi on a baroque violin, pianist Paolo Porto plays an 1830 Viennese Stein piano.

00:00:00 Violin Sonata No. 3 Op. 79: I. Allegro molto
00:04:18 Violin Sonata No. 3 Op. 79: II. Andantino
00:07:50 Violin Sonata No. 3 Op. 79: III. Rondo. Allegro
00:12:29 Allegro pathétique for Piano 4-hands in C Minor, Op. 123
00:24:51 Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 79: I. Allegro
00:29:13 Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 79: II. Andantino
00:31:37 Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 79: III. Rondo alla polacca
00:38:16 Adagio and Rondo for Piano 4-hands in A-Flat Major, Op. 124
00:50:33 Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 79: I. Allegro gustoso
00:54:48 Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 79: II. Andante
00:57:29 Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 79: III. Rondo. Allegro scherzando

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