These two ambitious sonatas by Respighi and Pizzetti are really magnificent works that deserve a firm place in the repertoire. The Respighi dates from 1916-17 and is an opulently late-romantic work that looks to German contemporaries - Richard Strauss in particular - and his typical fondness for archaic styles is primarily hinted at in some of the harmonies. It is a thoroughly beautiful work, though, full of drama and contrast, and with a particularly haunting second movement.
Pizzetti's sonata was written at the same time (1918-19), and just like Respighi Pizzetti was deeply influenced by the music of the past, including Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphony. Yet his sonata is markedly different in style - the modes and melodies of the past is incorporated into a post-romantic, somewhat impressionistic style. The first movement is stormy and dramatic and the slow movement passionately elegiac; the generally dark atmosphere is only lifted in the magnificent finale, where at least some rays of optimism and hope draws the music to a powerful close. I would deem it a near-masterpiece.
Elmar Oliveira is of course to be trusted in this music, and his playing is magnificent throughout - a marvelous legato, a shimmering, glittering tone, plenty of fervor and drama and an impressive array of colors. He is well supported by Robert Koenig. But here is the major catch: the piano sound is horrible, and the balance between the violinist and pianist as bad as they come. Not only is the piano moved to the distant background, the sound itself is constricted and narrow - apparently this was recorded in 1998, but it could easily pass as a rather artificial restoration of a mono recording from the 30s (and the balance and piano sound would still be objectionable). A pity, but the sound is too poor for the disc to warrant a top rating - it is still impossible not to recommend it with some enthusiasm, however.
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