Le Violon Franšais CÚsar FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A minor (1886) [22.04] Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Tha´s (1895) – Meditation [6.27] Camille SAINT-SA╦NS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Op.28 [9.37] Gabriel FAUR╔ (1845-1924)
Berceuse, Op.16 [3.46] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane, Op.76 [11.24]
Christian Danowicz (violin), Anna Rutkowska-Schock (piano)
rec. Wroclaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, September 2013 DUX 1114 [59.04]
The violinist on this disc, Christian Danowicz, spent his childhood and youth in France. In a brief note included in the booklet he explains that his love for French music has inspired the selection of works on the CD. Indeed the five works here are among the best-known and most popular of French works in the repertoire. Any recording which seeks to challenge the many well-established versions already in the catalogue must be exceptional indeed. Unfortunately that cannot be said of the performances here.
The beginning of the Franck Sonata, cultured and refined, is very classical in feeling, and the close microphone placement adds little sense of atmosphere. The piano lacks resonance, and the violin tone – well-tuned and certainly deeply felt – although well able to withstand close scrutiny, could have done with a greater acoustic warmth. The romantic sensibility of Franck is rather short-changed, and the violin attack is sometimes positively in-your-face (as at track 1, 6.10), rather as if the listener were sitting in the front row a matter of feet away from the artists.
The performance of Massenet’s Meditation brings some beautifully recessed violin tone at the very beginning, and some very delicately judged shading. However, the performance again is not free from a suspicion of hectoring at climaxes, and one really needs Massenet’s orchestra (and additional chorus) to bring this beautiful piece fully to emotional life. Danowicz is delightfully insouciant in the Saint-SaŰns showpiece which follows, and the close recording is of less concern here since it enables us to hear every roulade and frill with absolute clarity. This is the most enjoyable performance on the disc.
FaurÚ’s brief Ballade, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of air around the recorded sound, with the piano accompaniment displaying every note with a clarity that almost suggests a conscious avoidance of the sustaining pedal although I am sure this was not deliberate. The performance also strikes me as rather briskly dispatched. The disc concludes with another showpiece in the shape of Ravel’s Tzigane, although here again one misses the composer’s orchestration. Nor is Danowicz’s tuning quite impeccable, even given Ravel’s deliberate imitation of gipsy tuning — the passage at 4.11 in double-stopping sounds rather precarious. The closely-observed sudden piano glissando at 7.44 is very sudden indeed, and at 10.10 the violinist produces an admittedly characterful appoggiatura which is not however in Ravel’s score. The final three chords, marked pizzicato by Ravel, are here delivered arco, and the chords played are not those in the score. This makes for a more forceful ending, but it is not what the composer asked for, either in his original version with piano or his orchestral transcription.
In conclusion, this CD is best regarded as a souvenir of performances by the artists concerned – the booklet notes suggest as much, with extensive biographies of the performers as well as their brief introductions (given in Polish, English and French) but not a word about the music itself. Even so it must be noted that there are many better-recorded versions of each of these works in the catalogues, even given the undoubted abilities of the artists here. One would welcome the opportunity to hear these players again, but possibly in repertory which is less well-trodden – Szymanowski (for example) would well exploit Danowicz’s French sensibilities, if the recording were more atmospheric. Paul Corfield Godfrey