Francis POULENC (1899 – 1963)
Violin Sonata (1942/1943 rev 1949) [18:28] Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1937)
Violin Sonata in G (1927) [17:55] Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 – 1921) Danse Macabre (1875) [6:30] Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1937) Tzigane (1924) [9:43] Jules MASSENET (1842 – 1912) Meditation from Thaïs (1894) [4:53]
Zorin (violin), Vincent Balse (piano)
rec. 4–7 July 2006, Château de Rochemarin. DDD MAX ZORIN no number [57:29]
If anyone was
of the opinion that Poulenc wasn’t entirely happy writing
purely instrumental music, and I have to admit that I am
one of them, this performance of the Violin Sonata might
just change your mind. Helped by a very forward recording,
it really does feel as if the two performers are in the
room with you. Zorin grabs the first movement by the scruff
of the neck and wrings every ounce of passion and excitement
from it. The slow movement, in homage to Federico Garcia
Lorca, killed by Nationalist partisans at the start of
the Spanish Civil War in 1936, could have done with a little
less passion and a bit more simplicity. The finale again
races along, anger and passion run side by side and Zorin
is well up to the challenge of the music. Yes, Poulenc could write
convincingly for purely instrumental forces and this performance
has to be heard to be believed.
The Ravel Sonata begins
with exactly the right amount of nonchalance, the music
just starting without preamble – it’s suddenly there and
we’re listening. It’s a quite spectacular start and very
daring. Zorin treats the whole first movement as one never-ending,
always unfolding, melody and he is right to do so, because
it is! The blues of the middle movement is subtle and seductive,
Zorin using the most delicious rubato and portamento to
really point the tune. The moto perpetuo finale is less
hectic than many a performance and by slightly holding
back the music doesn’t sound as breathless as it often
After all this
seriousness, Zorin lets his hair down with a raucous (anonymous)
arrangement of Danse Macabre for violin and piano – great
fun and full of pyrotechnics. He approaches Tzigane less
as if it were there simply for him to show off, but as
if it were a real piece of music and not the mindless showpiece
most violinists take it to be. He cares about the tunes!
Of course, he also relishes the virtuosity it allows him
to display, but this is no mere run-through for a show-off!
He even manages to make a couple of jokes at the virtuosic
aspect of the piece!
To end there
is a lovely, and very subdued, account of the Meditation from
Massenet’s Thaïs. Oddly, this sounds as if it were recorded in a different
acoustic to the rest of the recital.
This is a disk
well worth having because Zorin sheds new light on the
Poulenc and Ravel Sonatas with his forthright approach
which certainly suits the former more than one would believe!
The sound is very bright and upfront. In fact it is recorded
so very loudly that I had to turn the volume down to get
a good perspective on the sound. Be warned, it is a bit
fierce if you play this CD too loudly. At a reasonable
volume this is very enjoyable!
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