First of all, this 2000 recording is in excellent sound, and the performances couldn't be bettered, Graffin and Devoyon aren't household names, but they are excellent and enterprising musicians. Thanks to Hyperion for finding artists willing to explore the byways of the repertoire. On this disc, we have a sonata by Bruno Walter from 1909, when Walter was in his early thirties. The middle movement (of three), Andante serioso, could stand for the whole piece. There isn't much light and shade in the sonata's 34 minutes -- mostly shade, and it's arguably a defect of the piece (considering its length) that it doesn't have more expressive variety. In all movements, though not all the time, the piano offers staccato figures of differing lengths, and seems to be inviting the violin to join in the iteration. The violin sometimes accedes, sometimes not, but when it doesn't, it never escapes into a full-breathed lyricism: there's always something restrained or tentative about it. Nowhere do the iterations become predictable, and through key changes and adjustments in phrasing and dynamics, Walter holds our interest with the textures, even though the overall effect isn't all that memorable. Graffin and Devoyon play with great beauty, and seem totally in tune with Walter's sober idiom. All in all, then, a distinguished performance of an interesting if not totally compelling piece.
The Goldmark Suite No.1 isn't a barrel of laughs either, though the final (fifth) movement has some wit and charm and energy. Devoyon's playing of the opening of the second movement -- before the violin enters -- is poised and lovely, and one gets a sense of the baroque inspiration of this 1869 piece. The thematic character of the music hardly seems consistently archaic, though it never employs a full-blown romantic character either. Expressively, it has a bittersweet character to my ears that distinguishes it from Walter's sobriety. These are well-crafted and well played pieces of unfamiliar music. I am happy to have heard these performances.