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Bela Bartok: Sonata for Solo Violin Sz. 117, BB 124: First Recording June 1947

by Yehudi Menuhin

Presto 04:51


Virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin was 27 years old and had been an international celebrity for 15 years when he commissioned ailing 62 year old Bela Bartok to write a solo violin sonata in November 1943. Bartok began the piece in New York City and completed most of the work in early 1944 in Asheville, North Carolina where he was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Menuhin contributed some edits for playability to the score and premiered it at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 26 1944 with Bartok in attendance.

The New York Times review wrote that: "The work is s test for the ears, the intelligence, the receptiveness of the most learned listener. The immense audience accepted the sonata whole, as it were, and applauded it, while Mr. Menuhin led the composer back and forth upon the stage to receive the tribute. [...] It must have been rewarding for Mr. Bartok who has had his share of the difficulties of the radical innovator in modern music, and to Mr. Menuhin, who had given everything he had with such devotion to the introduction of Mr. Bartok's new work."

Bartok wrote one further piece before he died Sept. 26, 1945.

Menuhin first recorded the sonata at Abbey Road studio #3 in London on June 2-3, 1947. It was released in Britain as an album of three 12" 78rpm discs. The only reissue of that performance was on a 1988 CD derived from the 78rpm discs. In the U.S. it was was among the first releases on the newly introduced 45rpm format in 1949. We have, as an experiment, produced here the first restoration from the vinyl discs.

Menuhin re-recorded the sonata in 1957 and again in 1974. Those recordings circulate digitally online. This one had not.


released July 27, 2023

Transfers, restorations, and notes by Ian Nagoski


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