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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasie in C Major, D. 934 [22:58]
Sonata in A Major, D. 574 [21:25]
Rondo Brilliant in b minor [13:11]
Isabelle Faust (violin)
Alexander Melnikov (piano)
rec. September 2004, Teldex Studio, Berlin
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 901870 [57:47]

For a composer as prolific as Schubert, it is strange that his output of works for violin and piano is so small: six works in all. This is all the more odd given that his brother Ferdinand was a gifted violinist. The old excuse that Schubert was intimidated at every turn by the still very much living Beethoven might hold some water. However, given the quality of the few solo violin works that he did leave us, we canít help but be a bit saddened by what might have been.
I confess that I was not terribly familiar with this repertoire until I sat down to listen to this disc. What a pleasant surprise it was! The C Major Fantasie is a through-composed work, but it has four distinct sections. It opens with a slow introduction, moves into a serious quasi-exposition in the minor mode, continues with a delightful set of variations and closes with a rollicking and joyous finale. It is as tuneful as one could expect from the composer of so many fine songs, and its serene mood and youthful exuberance are truly captivating.
Faust and Melnikov are a sensitive team, at one with the music and with each other. Faust plays with a warm tone, not overwrought with vibrato, and yet clean and sinuous. Melnikovís piano is at once clear and mellow. There is a good deal of reverberation in the recording, and given that it was made in a studio and not a concert venue, one cannot help but wonder if this is artificial. Regardless, it is not at all off-putting, and the ambience is most welcoming and relaxed.
The A Major Sonata, also known as the Grand Duo is far more formal in structure than the Fantasie. Cast in four movements it is a serious work in spite of its brimming tunefulness. It does not belie Schubertís oft-found difficulty with larger forms. At just over twenty minutes, it is compact without being abrupt and contains music as fine as found anywhere else in the literature. Of particular merit are the joyful scherzo and the lovely third movement marked andantino. There is no shortage of virtuosity in the writing, but it is solely at the service of the music, never to be trotted out in ostentatious display. Again, the performances are taut, and our teamís ability to bring off a slow movement with sincerity but with out self-indulgence is welcome indeed.
The recital closes with the Rondo Brilliant in b minor, which is a horse of a different color indeed. Far more dramatic and showy than the other works, this stormy little work stands up on its hind legs and demands attention.† It is an exhilarating ending to a lovely recital.
Kevin Sutton


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