This recording is now five years old and is reissued in the ‘Encore’
or ‘Nipper Collection’ – take your pick. Nipper’s on the front
and ‘another lower price bracket go-round’ is the principle behind
its reappearance in the marketplace. I’ve nothing against this.
These are generally well played performances, best in the Ravel,
worst in the Franck and middling in the Saint-SaŽns.
Best to get the
Franck out of the way first in the circumstances. The balance
is suspect with the piano often in front covering the violin.
Partly this is also Vogt’s fault. One appreciates the dilemma
for a sonata partner in this of all works. The violin has the
graceful melodies but the pianist shoulders much of the considerable
technical and textual difficulty. The solution is not to play
out quite so dramatically as does Vogt because it unbalances
still further an already unbalanced perspective. In addition
the dynamics – from both - are inclined to be self-regarding
and Chang’s solutions to the problems posed by the second movement
are smeary in the exposed emotive passages. Throughout the Recitative
Chang’s line is rather unsteady and her tone not particularly
graceful; her instincts here are unbending, cosmopolitan, very
much on the surface. Vogt forces when no other solution presents;
the finale ends as a damp squib. Altogether it’s one of the
least Franco-Belgian performances of this work I can recall.
Not much to commend it, unfortunately.
is a lot better - though even here there’s a feeling of something
aloof in Chang’s phrasing, a decided feeling that things are
being read through and not absorbed into the stylistic bloodstream
of her performance. Moments of virtuoso excitement are not reflected
in comparable lyric phraseology and the result is a curiously
unmoving and uninvolving reading, for all the panache the two
display – as before rather too much for comfort sometimes.
It’s only when they
play Ravel that they sound remotely at home. What is it about
the Ravel that suits them as the other brace of sonatas did
not? I suspect something of the work’s aloofness appeals to
them, its stylistic games playing, its questionable sincerity.
When relieved of the demands to deliver romantic effusiveness
we find, despite the endemic balance problems, a finely tuned,
occasionally acerbic reading in which the partners sound sympathetically
compatible. It’s not the most alluring Ravel I’ve ever heard
but it does exert its own pull.
Which doesn’t advance
us very far. One out of three is something of a miss I suppose.