Eduard FRANCK (1817-1893)
Piano Trio in E flat major (?) [28:09]
Cello Sonata in F major (1850? Pub 1882) [27:29]
Violin Sonata in A major (?) [24.04]
Shmuel Ashkenasi (violin); Yehuda Hanani (cello); James Tocco (piano)
rec. Culture/Demain Studio, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 2-4 November 2009 (Piano Trio); 7 November 2009 (Cello Sonata) and 7-8 May 2010 (Violin Sonata)
NAXOS 8.572480 [79:51]
Eduard Franck? Eduard? This little-known composer’s work was largely forgotten after his death. Some of his compositions were lost and none were published between 1860 and 1882. Malcolm Mansfield’s excellent notes for this welcome album do not reveal the dates of composition of these pieces and a trawl of the internet has revealed only minimal information, that’s why I have had to append question marks in the header above.
The composer’s descendants have intimated that Eduard’s obsessive need to perfect his works may have contributed to the delay in releasing his music. Other possible explanations for the neglect may include the mid-19th century conflict of musical styles: Eduard Franck was greatly influenced by Mendelssohn and, to a lesser extent, by Schumann. In fact he played four-hand piano concerts with Mendelssohn and befriended Schumann. By the time his works were published inflated Late-Romanticism was in vogue and Franck’s music would have been considered passé in some circles. Then, the fact that he was Jewish may have weighed against him.
All this is a great pity because these works are quite delightful, not only harmonically interesting, but appealingly tuneful and all in the brighter major keys.
The Piano Trio is very much influenced by Mendelssohn. It’s opening movement trips along brightly. The themes are strong and attractively stated with a finely judged balance between the instruments. The Mendelssohn influence is very strong in the impish Scherzo which is a joyful four-minute canter with a more meditative but unclouded middle section. The Andante con moto third movement with its sentimental turns of phrase and its lovely main theme announced by the violin over a deep cello ostinato is heart-warming. Altogether this movement had my imagination conjuring a scene where the forlorn and indignant meet amid an over-heated, over-furnished Victorian drawing room. The final Allegro molto vivace with its fine piano passages and rapid rhythmic motives is more akin to Schumann.
The four-movement Cello Sonata is a stronger piece and deeper emotionally. The two instruments are favoured equally. To quote Mansfield, “Franck cleverly resolves the inequalities in balance between the more powerful piano and the cello by alternating the cello’s material between its upper and lower registers As a result the cello freely sings but can also act as a bass foundation for the piano.” The opening Allegro is lyrical but at the same time strongly resolute. The Scherzo is another four-and-a-half minute gem, the cello cantering, the piano dancing away merrily and only briefly slowed by a more plaintive central section. The Adagio molto espressivo slow movement continues and exquisitely extends the plaintive atmosphere, the cello singing a most affecting melody. The whole is rounded off with a delightful Presto.
The Violin Sonata is another likeable work. It exploits the tonal brilliance of the violin and shows off virtuosic piano passages. Its sunny opening Allegro is very appealing with sweeping melodic material. The lullaby-like opening of the Andante con moto enchants before the music lilts its way forward. Another bright and sunny Scherzo is included this time with folk idioms quite forward. The Allegro espressivo finale rounds off the programme sentimentally.
Although this music is not earth-shaking it is quite delightful. It is shameful that it has been so neglected.
Not earth-shaking but quite delightful. It is shameful that it has been so neglected.
See also reviews of Eduard Franck’s orchestral music on Audite: String quartet etc; Violin concerto; Symphony
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