I find this pared-back version by far the more powerful. The Hungarian Gypsy flavouring accentuates the drama of the work, like a fiery shot of grappa in espresso. Violinist Kristian Winther is the showcased artist here, with Anthony Romaniuk and Michelle Wood providing sympathetic accompaniment. Kristian, originally from Canberra, is only 25. This recording suggests he is poised on the edge of a great career.
His playing is sensitive when called for, but is distinguished in the main by a full-blooded vigour and impetuousness which is never less than totally exciting. The four works heard here – Tzigane, Sonata for Violin and Piano Number 2, Piece in the Form of a Habanera and the Sonata for Violin and Cello – span from 1907 to 1922 and include some of the most aggressive and dynamic of Ravel’s chamber writing – what he called his ‘motor’ or ‘mechanised’ style. That sounds heartless – but nothing Ravel wrote could be termed that.
There’s too much soul incorporated in his driving rhythms. The acoustics on this SACD are as exceptional as anything Melba has produced, which means close to recorded perfection. This is a hybrid-disc, which means that if your player cannot reproduce SACD, the disc also carries a conventional CD layer to bring the performances to all. But only SACD can bring the full thrill of musical immediacy captured here.