On the face of it this should have been a very desirable
compilation but the less than involving performances had this reviewer
scurrying off to find alternative, more pleasing, performances of these
The scholastic notes suggests that Franck had "conceived
the possibility for a cello to replace the violin" in his celebrated
Violin Sonata. "Indeed there is an edition of the work, published
during Franckís lifetime, entitled Sonata for Piano and Violin or Cello.
One copy of the edition bears the composerís hand-written autograph.
This revelation appears to support the claims voiced by Eugène
Ysaye and Pablo Casals that a cello version would not have contradicted
the composerís artistic intentions. So does it work? Well, I rather
think it does; the lyricism, transcribed down to the more mellow tones
of the cello, lends the work a graver more autumnal depth. But the rather
plodding playing of Cooper and Wieder-Atherton in the opening movement
makes me yearn to hear a more committed performance before I feel I
could make a final judgement. [The Penguin Guide to compact Discs recommends
the CRD 3391 recording with Robert Cohen giving "a firm strong
rendering"] I hasten to add that things improve in the succeeding
movements especially in the beautifully playful yet plaintive final
allegretto poco mosso which, letís face it, would be difficult
to dampen. My favourite recording of the Sonata, in its usual format
for violin and piano, is the glorious celebrated recording by Kyung-Wha
Chung and Radu Lupu on Decca 460 006-2
Alas there is little to recommend in the passionless
performance of Rachmaninovís achingly beautiful and intensely melodic
Sonata, one of the most glorious in the repertoire. I hasten over this
disappointment and recommend you turn to the Naxos 8.550987 recording
with Michael Grebanier giving a richly expressive reading with a power
Wieder-Atherton hardly ever attains, and Janet Guggenheim in able support.
Also recommended is the partnership of Paul Tortelier and Aldo Ciccolini
on EMI CZS 5 74332-2.
I merely add that this performance of the brief Fauré
work is plodding too although the Rachmaninov Vocalise has a
more sympathetic approach.
Disappointing performances of well-loved works. Look