"Vinteuil Sonata"

I ended up down a rabbit hole about the first piece on this album: the violin sonata by Gabriel Pierné. I've known this work from a different recording I found while chewing through Pierné's music, but this performance really grabbed me. The energy of it — the ardent nervousness — takes you skitting along a tightrope from the start. One reason is that through the endless flow of notes the pianist Nathalia Milstein shapes the phrases and is sparing with the pedal, allowing the interesting textures to show instead of blurring them as I've heard in other recordings. As for her violinist sister Maria Milstein, her sound tends toward lithe, digging in where needed instead of all the time, though I wouldn't call it soft — more like woody or resiny. This combined with the clear piano lets you hear the details often flying by, and in the parts where the violin line follows that of the piano you can hear them balancing together. Hearing this recording helped convince me that this is one of the best violin sonatas ever, and it has a glorious ending.

So I wanted to compare: I went listening to every other recording I could find on the Naxos streaming service. I found some interesting points of comparison, and ended up writing it up separately.

"Vinteuil Sonata" refers to a mystery sonata mentioned in Proust's "In Search of Lost Time". It's possible Proust actually heard some of the music on this album (aside from the Pierné, works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy, and Reynaldo Hahn) but in any case it's all performed with the same level of focus and zing.

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