Leclair, Spohr, Wieniawski – Duets for Two Violins – Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman (2015) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Leclair, Spohr, Wieniawski – Duets for Two Violins – Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 46:38 minutes | 942 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital booklet | © Parlophone Records/Warner Classics
Recorded: Temple Church, London, 25 & 26 October 1976

The violin duet repertoire remains somewhat marginal, which explains the rarity of recitals such as this one, in which two star violinists appear opposite one another. Most works in the genre were written by virtuosos such as Leclair, Viotti, Spohr, Wieniawski and Ysaÿe, but composers of the calibre of Telemann, Michael Haydn, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Honegger and Bartók also took up the challenge. Given the restrictions imposed by having to combine the sound of two identical instruments whose primary role is more melodic than polyphonic, composers have tended to focus on thematic development, harmony and rhythm, resulting in highly imaginative explorations of the instrument’s technical potential.

Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764), founder of the French violin school, wrote his 12 duets in an elegant idiom that brought together the best of the French and Italian styles. One of his contemporaries praised them in these terms: “Leclair was the first who, without imitating anything, created beautiful and original works that he could rightly call his own.” Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859), one of the leading violinists of his day, was also an incredibly prolific composer who ventured into all genres, from opera to the most diverse forms of chamber music. His violin duets skilfully highlight the agility of the two players and are of the same high quality as those of Leclair, as well as sharing their optimistic spirit.

Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935), another brilliant violinist, took a different approach, blending together the related sonorities of the violin and the viola in his famous transcription of the Passacaglia, the sixth and final movement of Handel’s Keyboard Suite No.7 in G minor. While the first third of the transcription follows the model of the original fairly closely, the rest is largely of Halvorsen’s own devising, revealing both his creativity and his instrumental virtuosity. Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880), whose brilliance dazzled all his contemporaries, including the great Joseph Joachim himself, left a catalogue of works devoted exclusively to his own instrument. His Études-Caprices, Op.18, for two violins were in fact meant for teaching purposes and written for a first violin “with secondviolin accompaniment” — the latter part being designed for the teacher.

There was no violin duo to equal that of father and son David and Igor Oistrakh until lifelong friends Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman joined forces. Taking up the Oistrakhs’ baton with inimitable ease, virtuosity and humour, they captivate audiences every time they appear on stage together. This recital, whose programme features an original and attractive selection of pieces from what remains a little-known yet sparkling and sophisticated repertoire, marked the first phase in a fruitful collaboration which went on to develop in various different ways as they recorded together again as a duo (volume 20), but also as members of a trio (volume 48) and a quartet (volume 25). -Jean-Michel Molkhou


Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764)
Sonata No.5 in E minor, Op.3 no.5 for two violins
1 I Allegro ma poco 3.45
2 II Gavotte: Andante grazioso 3.01
3 III Presto 3.08

Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
Études-Caprices, Op.18
4 No.1 in G minor 3.44
5 No.2 in E flat major 4.29
6 No.4 in A minor 1.40

Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
7 Passacaglia in G minor transcr. Johan Halvorsen* 6.56

Louis Spohr (1784-1859)
Duo concertante in D major, Op.67 no.2
8 I Allegro 8.02
9 II Larghetto 5.33
10 III Rondo: Vivace 6.22

Itzhak Perlman, violin
Pinchas Zukerman, violin, viola*



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