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.
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.
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