Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major Op. 8 (1865)[18:15]¹
Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor Op. 45 (1887)[23:34] ¹
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonata for violin and piano in G minor, L 140 (1917) [12:38] ²
Joseph Fuchs (violin)
Frank Sheridan (piano) ¹
Artur Balsam (piano) ²
rec. May-June, 1951 (Grieg) and October-November 1955 (Debussy)
Joseph Fuchs’s discography expands still wider with this release which couples his Grieg and Debussy sonata recordings of 1951 and 1955. The earlier traversals are the two Grieg sonatas with pianist Frank Sheridan, a fine musician who taught for many years at the Mannes School of Music. The Brunswick LP was recorded in quite a wide acoustic, and it’s not unduly flattering. Still, phrasing is eloquent, and rubati - especially in the Allegretto of the Op.8 sonata - assured. And whilst Fuchs is not tonally the most romanticised of players, and thus lacks something in plangency and yielding refinement, he is technically highly impressive. He’s nimble and rhythmically acute in the sonata’s finale, for an obvious example of this dexterity and digital panache.
These particular traits are perhaps magnified in the C minor in which the music-making takes on a pronounced high-powered quality. Fuchs plays with imagination but seldom refinement or limpidity. Sheridan espouses such qualities in the slow movement to a greater extent than his partner, whose rich and evocative portamenti are, nonetheless, an exciting component of the duo’s performance. The acoustic exacerbates Fuchs’s quite dry tone, by adding a metallic overtone. Fuchs exalts in a quasi-concertante role in the finale and whilst tone colour remains on the monochromatic side of the palette, the playing remains exciting.
Fuchs teamed up with Artur Balsam for the Decca performance of the Debussy sonata in 1955. Balsam was an outstanding musician and he provides musicianship as distinguished as the lesser known Sheridan. The problem is the very deliberate tempo adopted in the opening movement. This rather saps it of life before things have even begun - which is a shame - and the rubati compound matters. Those attuned to a Franco-Belgian aesthetic in this work - Dubois and Maas, Francescatti and Casadesus, say - will find this performance devitalised and lacking in flair and fancy, the results remaining rather prosaic. A particular problem is the rather bland approach to phraseology - especially repeated phrases, where one finds little variance.
Still, collectors who admire Fuchs will welcome the restoration of this material. If you have enjoyed his complete Beethoven sonata recordings, now on Naxos Historical, this FR could be a good way to expand appreciation of his gifts.
Jonathan Woolf

Collectors who admire Fuchs will welcome the restoration of this material.