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César FRANCK (1822–1890)
Violin Sonata in A (1886) [29:43]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975)
Violin Sonata, op.134 (1968) [30:30]
Sergey Khachatryan (violin); Lusine Khachatryan (piano)
rec. July 2007, Studio Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland. DDD
NAÏVE V5122 [60:13]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is an unusual but very exciting issue. I would never have thought that the soaring lyricism of César Franck would make a good bedfellow for Shostakovich’s very disturbing Sonata, but they work so well together, especially in such superb performances.

Franck’s Sonata is a broad four-movement piece, bold and romantic, and it’s given the full treatment here: Sergey uses a big tone when necessary and he really lets the romantic melodies soar, but he can be gentle when the music demands it. It’s simply fantastic. The sheer simplicity of the finale’s canon is beautiful, and with the most subtle of rubato brother and sister Khachatryan really make it sing.

The Shostakovich Sonata is a different matter. Written at the very end of his life, for David Oistrakh, here is Shostakovich reaching out to new and unusual sound-worlds, giving us music of the future and of hope, although it might not seem so at first hearing.

A hushed and stark opening for the piano ushers in the violin: it’s a bleak world. Much of this music is introspective, musing, the dynamic never rising above mezzo-forte. The scherzo which follows it is wild and unreserved. Giving no respite, this fast and noisy movement simply batters its way into your head without thought for what it is doing. The final movement returns to the world of the first. One might feel the music to be distanced from the listener for the composer’s use of some aspects of the 12 note technique is planned to give us a sense of discomfort, a sense of a lack of home, but repeated hearings will uncover the beauty of the writing. In some respects this Sonata is an intellectual dialogue between the players where it is the music which is of prime importance - virtuosity is unimportant. And what a discourse Shostakovich provides. As ever with this composer he keeps you guessing what will happen next, and you can never pre-empt him.

The Khachatryans play this work as if it were a romantic Sonata in the Franck tradition and it works marvellously. Their approach is warm and generous in feel and they display the work in all its glory. The twenty or so years since its composition have allowed musicians to bring new approaches to the music, and our further knowledge of the composer, and his life, have enriched our understanding of his late masterpieces.

The disk is very well presented in a gatefold sleeve with good notes, in four languages, in the booklet. The sound is superb, with a real concert hall feel and there is an excellent balance between the players.

An odd coupling, to be sure, but one which works and which will, because of the excellent interpretations, give lots of pleasure to the listener and bring the Shostakovich work many new friends.

Bob Briggs

 


 


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