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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A major Op.13 (1875-77)
Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor Op.108 (1916-17)
Romance Op.28 (1877)
Berceuse Op.16
Andante Op.75 (1897)
Morceau de lecture (1903)
Sicilienne Op.78 (1893) arr. Howat
Air de danse (from Caligula Op.52) (1888) arr. Howat
Alban Beikircher (violin)
Roy Howat (piano)
Recorded by Radio Suisse Romande at the Studio Ernest Ansermet, Maison de la Radio, Geneva, April 2003
ARTE NOVA 74321 92763 2 [68.35]


The Fauré sonatas are seldom coupled together but when they are it’s usually by chamber musicians and ones moreover of taste and understanding. Critics have generally so relied on the Early=Lyric, Late=Cryptic dichotomy with regard to his chamber works that it takes a brave musician to cry wolf. Since I’ve always been astounded that anyone should think the E minor Sonata "difficult" or – as I read in a book only yesterday – "gnomic" I read Roy Howat’s refreshing notes with fellow feeling. "A youthful intensity redolent of the First Sonata, despite all the distance Fauré had travelled meanwhile" Howat writes, and Amen, Brother to that. He plays it thus, as well, along with his chamber and sonata colleague, the German violinist Alban Beikircher.

The Second Sonata seems to me the better performance. The Op.13 is attractive but the first movement is a little slow and one’s ear is drawn more to Howat than to Beikircher, whose elegant reticence is not always to the work’s advantage. He tends to stress the dolce aspects of the Sonata and to underplay the assertive independence of the violin’s line. I also felt the Scherzo might have been just that bit tighter – it’s very tender and withdrawn in the central panel but not quite terpsichorean in the outer parts. There’s certainly no lack of youthfulness in the Second Sonata, as I said, with adroit pianism to the fore and an Andante crafted and sculpted with decisive lyricism and a finale light, lissom and fine. If you really do think it so impenetrable I suggest you take a listen to Beikircher and Howat and let’s hope they can kick some critical commonplaces into touch.

There are some charming morceaux to complete the disc, a couple in arrangements by Howat. The Andante is the most sheerly interesting from a musico-historical perspective because it’s derived from the middle movement of the discarded Violin Concerto. The Morceau de lecture was written for the Paris Conservatoire’s sight-reading test. Howat has arranged the Sicilienne and its strong accents and delightful lilt suits this version well (the dedicatee of the Cello and Piano version, the English cellist W H Squire, recorded it and some enterprising company should reissue that Columbia for a taste of authentic Fauré). The Air de dance from Caligula is also here in Howat’s arrangement and makes a pleasing end piece. Good sound and notes with which I agree.

Jonathan Woolf

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