César FRANCK (1822-90)
Violin Sonata in A.
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Violin Sonata in E flat, Op.
Nikolai Madojan (violin);
Kontrapunkt 32311 [56'44]
These two sonatas are almost exactly contemporaneous (the Franck was written
in 1886, the Strauss in 1887/8), but come from opposite ends of the composers'
lives. They make for an interesting pairing, showing two different but
complementary reactions to Romanticism: it is a pairing already explored
by David Grimal and Georges Pludermacher on Harmonia Mundi HMN711681.
The Franck is presented first, perhaps a little unfairly on the Strauss.
Madojan and Westenholz are at their most successful in the first movement.
The dreamy piano chords of the opening are well-placed, and Madojan injects
something akin to wistfulness into his opening paragraphs. But neither can
sustain the argument, and both just miss setting up the evocative atmosphere
at the heart of this movement. There is little trace of abandon from the
pianist in the second movement, who uses only tiny amounts of pedal (as if,
paradoxically, to emphasise the dry acoustic in which he has been placed).
The Recitativo-Fantasia emerges as diffuse and terminally lethargic,
and there is little or no cumulative energy to the finale. To enter a field
which includes such recordings as Perlman's (with Argerich, no less, on EMI
CDC5 56815-2) or Mutter's ('The Berlin Recital', DG 445 826-2) with an
interpretation of this sort is folly.
The Strauss Violin Sonata has not enjoyed the popularity of the Franck. It
is hardly surprising: it is perhaps unfair to call it juvenilia, but neither
does it come close to exhibiting the mastery of Strauss' later achievements.
It has to be said that Westenholz' variety of touch eclipses Madojan's somewhat
lacklustre account of the solo part in the long first movement, but both
degenerate into a competent run-through for the rest of the piece. If it
is early Strauss that appeals, Sarah Chang's coupling of the Sonata with
the Violin Concerto, Op. 8 (accompanied in the sonata by Wolfgang Sawallisch,
who conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Concerto on EMI
CDC5 56870-2) is a much better bet: the sound is also infinitely superior.
Chang injects a measure of conviction into the performance that Madojan cannot
hope to match.
Very disappointing. The insert notes are acceptable, but the drab presentation
matches the dull performances.
If in difficulties getting the disc it can be obtained in the UK direct from
Discovery Records Ltd
phone 01672 563931
fax 01672 563934
or from Kontrapunkt at www.steeplechase.dk/