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César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [30.05]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G minor (1916-17) [13.07]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Humoresque Op.10 No.1 (1877) [2.45]
Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op.42 (1878) [16.57]
Valse-Scherzo Op.34 (1877) [5.45]
Liza Ferschtman (violin)
Bas Verheijden (piano)
Recorded at the Doopsgezinde Kerk Deventer, spring 2004


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This is quite a conventional programme with the Debussy acting as a foil for the meaty Franck and the Tchaikovsky occupying the sorbet-and-ice-cream end of the lyric meal. That’s no bad way to showcase a young duo’s talent – and this is a real duo and not an ad hoc pairing – though competition even at the lower price range tends to be crushing. The best way is to strike out on one’s own.

Which is what they do. There’s nothing immediately idiosyncratic or wayward to the playing. In the Franck Ferschtman makes a faint portamento or two and her approach is perfectly reasonable, her tonal armoury not especially opulent but expressive enough. In the clotted Allegro second movement, where things can easily fall apart, the writing causes some difficulty and I sensed that Verheijden was not especially comfortable. Ears may be drawn to the fiddle in this work but it’s the pianist who bears the technical brunt of Franck’s ungrateful writing. Phraseology isn’t quite “there” in the Recitativo Fantasia and whilst some of the playing is attractively inward there are moments of rather unvarnished and static playing from both musicians; a lack of fantasy really, as well.

She gets a lot of colour into the first movement of the Debussy though here the recording isn’t detailed enough, quite; some perceptive keening edge to her tone as well though some of the phrasing is inclined to be a touch four-square. The slow movement is very introvert and far less quixotic than often is the case. This is a modest view with the pizzicatos not thrown off or brandished as gutsy powerhouse soloists are wont to do. As a result she doesn’t lilt or really sing through the phrases either – a down side of this introversion – and this plain speaking extends to the finale as well. The Tchaikovsky goes well though there are some technical problems in the first of the Op.42.

Obviously recommendations seem superfluous but I’ll make one for the Franco-Belgian pairing anyway. Try to hear the Dubois-Maas 1930s recordings on a single Biddulph CD and hear what we seem to have lost in playing of this repertoire and in the playing of Debussy’s chamber music in particular – a febrile, nervous and quicksilver quality that seems inimical to today’s players who seem to value haze over heat.

Jonathan Woolf



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