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Pianists might consider themselves rather spoilt to have comparative versions of Viktor Ullmann’s sonatas, but so it is. Maria Garzón comes up against the set of complete piano sonatas on the Steinway label by Jeanne Golan. The recording for Garzón is a little too reverberant.

In the Sixth Sonata, Golan triumphs, granitic but not over-harsh in the first movement, keen to emphasise the nods to jazz. Garzón tends towards a more Impressionist aesthetic and, in doing so, underpowers the more robust music. She is also less focused in the Allegretto grazioso that follows, and her finale exudes less energy. In contrast, the Fourth Sonata finds Garzón in command, rhythmically excellent; Golan is blander. The first movement of the Fifth Sonata is marked by many changes of mood, and again it is Garzón who triumphs. She finds the fun in the music as well as the funereal, along with the underlying, restrained, slinky jazz in the ‘Serenade’ fourth movement.

The Seventh Sonata has a huge frame of reference, its density of harmonic argument somehow invoking Sorabji. Garzón is more febrile than Golan in the initial Allegro. Garzón’s Adagio here is vast and desolate (eight minutes against Golan’s five), balanced out by the Variations and Fugue on a Hebrew Folksong that comprise the finale, massive in conception and, here, delivery. Overall, perhaps, it is Garzón who seems closer to Ullmann, and one lives in hope for a companion volume.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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