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Record Geijutsu, August 2003
Asako Urushihara, who has recently been exploring new frontiers in modern and contemporary music, gave a brilliant performance of the Schumann violin sonatas in Kobe in June 2002. Recordings and performances of Schumann's music are difficult to come by largely because he tends to be overshadowed by his two compatriots - Beethoven and Brahms. Historically and stylistically his music falls somewhere between these two iconoclastic giants, which might explain his limited appeal, but then that is what sets his music apart, giving it a uniqueness and flavor all its own. And thanks to violinist Asako Urushihara and pianist Barry Snyder, Schumann may well be riding to new heights of popularity after their stunning performance in Kobe.
The three Schumann violin sonatas in this recording are written in the minor key and were composed during the artist's latter years from 1851 to 1853. Sonata No. 1 in A Minor consists of 3 movements and although, comparatively, it is considered a small work, musically, it holds its own against the very best of its genre. The opening entrance of the violin puts the listener into a melancholic trance that could only be described as characteristically Schumann. And Asako Urushihara's profound insights add a dimension that serves only to deepen the experience. Unlike most sonatas, which contain a slow, gentle second movement to contrast the quicker-paced first and third movements, Schumann decided to depart from convention choosing, rather, an upbeat allegretto style for the middle section of his first sonata. Without betraying the intentions of the composer, Ms. Urushihara performed the theme of this second movement in a manner that served to enhance the contrasting styles of the first and third movements by adding a touch of gentility in just the right doses.
The final movement is written in a lively, somewhat scherzo style that conjures up emotions of frantic desperation. In the middle section, the tempo seems to slow down and breathe a bit, but this does not last for long. The first movement states that the music be played "with dramatic emotion." Ms. Urushihara applies this interpretation throughout the whole of the sonata heightening the experience by adding a depth of emotion that comes from having truly lived the music.
Schumann's Violin Sonata No 3 in A Minor consists of 4 movements. The last two movements are adapted from the second and fourth movements of the F. A. E. Sonata co-written by Brahms and Dietrich. The structure of the four movements is quintessential Schumann resembling the compact structure of the Violin Sonata No 1. Ms. Urushihara gives the short scherzo and intermezzo in the mid-section a buoyant and personable quality, which contrasts very nicely with the first and last sections of the sonata both of which are rich and deep in character. The grand scale and rivers of sound that mark the entrance of the thematic first movement following the serene introduction are at once powerful and compelling.
Schumann's Three Romances was originally written for oboe and is often performed by either oboe or clarinet. It blends perfectly with the Sonatas in A and D Minor and lends a very calming effect to the program.
Sonata No 2 in A Minor is a major work that extends for more than thirty minutes. It is a powerful and intense composition that pairs the violin and piano as two dueling instruments engaged in a chamber music free-for-all. The first movement opens with the piano with the violin announcing its entrance with a series of grand chordal passages that give the music boundless energy. This intensity can also be heard in the last movement; however, Ms. Urushihara's beautiful and awe-inspiring pizzicato and bowing technique during the opening of the third movement was an unforgettable moment during this performance.
by Akira Hirano
Robert Schumann wrote three sonatas for the violin; however, while performances and recordings of Sonatas 1 and 2 are quite commonplace, recordings and performances of Sonata 3 are extremely rare. This may be due to the fact that two of the movements in Sonata 3 (originally known as the F.A.E. Sonata) were written in collaboration with Johannes Brahms and Albert Dietrich. Schumann later added two more movements to complete the work. There is no mistaking that this composition bears all the trademarks of Schumann's creative genius. Its revival has been long awaited.
The Sonata 3 in A Minor reflects the volatile temperament of its composer. Ms. Urushihara's exhilarating performance does more than live up to the demands of the work both in tonal color and interpretation. Her deft use of tone color in the second movement provides just the right amount of expressive shading to the music's subtle nuances. In contrast to this, the fourth movement has an entirely different persona, which Ms. Urushihara expresses with a broad and sweeping interpretation enveloping the listener in a sea of emotion.
Ms. Urushihara's performances of Schumann's three sonatas beautifully express the subtle tapestry of the composer's complex emotions. The elaborate nuances she is able to weave with the colors of her violin give the music just the right amount of elasticity. And Barry Snyder's performance only adds to the richness of the experience.
In addition to Schumann's three sonatas, Ms. Urushihara also recorded Schumann's "Three Romances," Op. 94. Again, her interpretation of each romance is a testament to her ingenious use of color. Her performance of the first romance is beautiful and delicate; the second romance she plays with rustic and warm emotion; and in the third romance she gives a fiery performance of the suppressed passions bubbling underneath the surface of the music.
by Akira Takahashi
Ongaku no Tomo, August 2003
Violinist, Asako Urushihara, and Pianist, Barry Snyder, join forces to give a superb performance of Robert Schumann's three violin sonatas and three romances. The romances were originally written for the oboe and are often performed by either oboe or clarinet; however, Schumann also had the violin in mind when he composed the work. Although the romances are always a pleasure to hear when played on woodwind instruments, the Schumanesque beauties of these little gems seem to really sparkle when played on the violin.
Schumann's three sonatas are all written in the minor key and were composed during Schumann's latter years from 1851 to 1853. Ms. Urushihara and Mr. Snyder meticulously bring out the individual characteristics of each movement without sacrificing the organic structure of the sonatas. Their performance of the Sonata No. 3 in A minor in particular literally seems to evoke the frenzied emotions that could only come from a troubled mind like Schumann's. And the opening entrance of the first movement in Sonata No. 2 in D minor is one of the most remarkable of any in the repertory. The volatile and the serene qualities that are so characteristically Schumann are brilliantly contrasted in the musical artistry of Asako Urushihara and Barry Snyder.
by Akira Hirano
Ongaku Gendai, August 2003
This CD is a recording of a live performance of the complete Schumann violin sonatas performed by Asako Urushihara and Barry Snyder in June 2002 at Matsukata Hall, Kobe. Ms. Urushihara's performance is at once entrancing as it fills the air with an inexplicable longing and romanticism from the moment her bow touches the strings. Her performance throughout the whole of the CD is spellbinding and intoxicating. Although the sonatas are not large-scale compositions, Ms. Urushihara communicates the music as though she is speaking directly to your heart, rather than just stringing a series of sounds together while drawing her bow across her violin. Pianist Barry Snyder approaches the music in the same manner, which is what makes this CD so electrifying as the two seem to almost work as one entity. In addition to the 3 Sonatas, Ms. Urushihara and Mr. Snyder also recorded Schumann's "Three Romances," Op. 94. A violin performance of a composition that was originally intended for the oboe gives the music a new flavor that could otherwise not be appreciated. This CD is Urushihara at her best. And although it is a recording of a live performance, there is almost next to no background noise making it an enjoyable listen.
by Ken Fukumoto
Yomiuri Shimbun (Newspaper), July 18, 2003 Evening Edition
Violinist Asako Urushihara and pianist Barry Snyder give a solid performance of Robert Schumann's three violin sonatas and "Three Romances," op. 94 in this live recording. Their musical interpretation is pure and graceful, yet telling. This artistic duo give a performance that could only be described as a veritable tour de force.
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