Déjà Review: this review was first published in January 2003 and the recording is still available.

Trails of Creativity
David Frühwirth (violin), Henri Sigfridsson (piano)
rec. 2002, Berkshire, UK
Avie Records AV0009 [2 CDs: 138]

This is a fascinating two-disc anthology of pieces for violin and piano with a rationale that would be impossible to discern from the title, Trails of Creativity, which is, I assume, a name taken from a series of concerts organised by the Austrian Cultural Forum in London, Berlin and Vienna. The subtitle gets us closer: Music from between the wars 1918 – 1938.

There ought to something for everybody here. Of the ten pieces, six are first recordings which is of interest in itself. It follows that the majority of the music is off the beaten track and two of the composers are better known for activities other than composing – the scholar and lecturer Hans Gál, and violinist Adolf Busch. Most of the music is fairly conservative for the time and tends to be lightish in content. Hans Gál’s sonata though is a serious essay in the form. It is the longest piece and its ambition rather overstretches the composer. However, this is a first recording of a work that is, as I understand, still unpublished and is definitely worth a listen. Another first recording is Walton’s early Toccata which I enjoyed for its juxtaposition of rhapsody and youthful rigour. A more traditional form of English pastoral rhapsody is provided by Ivor Gurney whose piece is predictably called The Apple Orchard.

The Austrian violinist, David Frühwirth, and his excellent accompanist Henri Sigfridsson, are very much at home with most of the music, particularly that which has a late romantic indulgence to it such as the Frederick Rosse suite. Korngold’s suite, Much Ado About Nothing, also shines in performance. It is probably the best known music in the anthology, apart from the Threepenny Opera, and, dare I suggest, among the finest music. I thought the rendering of the arranged extracts from Weill’s opera not so successful, but that may be more to do with the arrangement. Without the woodwind the music just has not got that essential acerbic bite to it and neither the players nor Stefan Frenkel in his arrangement can do much about it. Frenkel was a violin virtuoso and Karl Rathaus’s Suite, Op. 27 was dedicated to him. It is a richly varied piece with a punchy, rhythmically jagged final movement. The piece that follows on the disc is another arrangement by a distinguished violinist, Albert Sammons. He must have enjoyed playing it for Frederick Rosse’s The Merchant of Venice suite has some deliciously romantic, soaring melodic lines.

Avie is to be congratulated for producing this rather off-beat double disc set. It combines a small amount of familiar music with some lesser known, and the first recordings will, I am sure, be revelatory to some listeners. There is a helpfully informative note on each piece and David Frühwirth in his own note on the enterprise exhorts us to “enjoy it”, declaring, “there is more to come!”. That’s good news.

John Leeman

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Hans GÁL (1890 – 1987)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in D (1933)*
Karl RATHAUS (1895 – 1954)
Suite, Op.27 (1927)*
Frederick ROSSE (1867 – 1940)
Suite: The Merchant of Venice (1905, arr. Albert Sammons, 1921)*
Erich KORNGOLD (1897 – 1957)
Suite: Much Ado About Nothing. Op.11 (1920)
William WALTON (1902 – 1983)
Toccata for Violin and Piano(1922-23)*
Adolf BUSCH (1891 – 1952)
Suite for Violin and Piano in G minor. Op.38 (1927)
Egon WELLESZ 1885 – 1974)
Suite for Violin and Piano, Op 56 (1937, rev. 1957)*
Kurt WEILL (1900 – 1950)
Seven Pieces from The Threepenny Opera (1930)
Ivor GURNEY (1890 – 1937)
The Apple Orchard (1919)
*Premiere Recording