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CD Review

Fauré & Franck

John Marks 8

Violin Sonatas

  • Gabriel Fauré:
  • Sonata #1 in A Major for Violin & Piano, Op. 13 (1876)
  • Après un rêve
  • César Franck:
  • Sonata in A Major for Violin & Piano (1866)
Arturo Delmoni, violin
Meg Bachman Vas, piano
John Marks Records JMR8 1996 ADD 53:38
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Gabriel Fauré's first sonata for violin and piano was favored by Jascha Heifetz with a performance white hot at its core but nevertheless cool to the touch. Despite its intensity and sophistication - and abundant Heifetzian nuance - it always seemed too brittle for the music. Arturo Delmoni's account, too, glows from within, but its radiance is more diffused and provides as much warmth as light. Listen to the violin's entry in the second movement to hear all the mystery that passage can suggest. The third movement doesn't crackle like Heifetz's with static electricity, but who finds petting a cat on a dry winter day to be throughly and invariably enjoyable? And Delmoni maintains his soaring lyricism throughout the last movement: there are fewer expressive hills and valleys in his reading than in Heifetz's.

César Franck's sonata is a study in collaboration, neither a sonata for piano and violin as Beethoven's were styled, nor yet a concerto in disguise like Richard Strauss's - it demands a true partnership. Written as a wedding present for violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, it modeled marital harmony as rapturously as could be implied in purely musical terms. Meg Bachman Vas and Delmoni play with the compatibility requisite to seal this musical union, The ardor of the playing emanates from both in equal measure. The first movement may be wanting in hushed expectancy, the second may fall just short of Olympian grandeur, and the finale may avoid unexplored depths of mystical contemplation, but both partners play with disarming sincerity, rich lyricism, and entrancing beauty of tone. After this sonata meal, Fauré's miniature is an effective cordial.

The original recording was made in 1982; the digital remastering preserves its warm analog ambience and captures the instruments with breathtaking intimacy. Arturo Delmoni plays throughout with a plush but sturdy tone and his technique only infrequently betrays his pure and noble expressive aims. If he doesn't project the marked violinistic individuality of a Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh, Francescatti, or Szigeti, he is the equal of a great many younger violinists who have garnered much more extensive reputations. This disc of French sonatas, in fact, achieves a remarkably high level that many better-known violinists could hardly aspire to surpass. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 1998, Robert Maxham

Trumpet