César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A Major (1886) [24:00]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G Minor (1917) [11:38]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse, Op.16 (1878) [2:55]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habanera (1907-08) [2:43]
David Nadien (violin)
David Hancock (piano)
rec. 1958, New York

Forgotten Records has disinterred a Monitor LP made by esteemed concertmaster, session player, and soloist David Nadien with the fine pianist David Hancock. This isn’t the first time it’s been reissued. Cembal d’amour has released a long line of recordings by Nadien, some studio inscriptions and others live. For some reason, though, the Ravel was omitted in their reissue (Cembal d’amour CD151 - review) and the Rachmaninoff-Heifetz Daisies arrangement included, as well as Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins – the other fiddle player was none other than Ruggiero Ricci – from a 1970 recital. So it seems as if the Ravel is making its first reappearance since LP days. The Forgotten Records transfer, incidentally, is cut much higher than the rival one. With the Cembal d’amour you struggle to catch detail, even when the volume is pushed very high.

Musically, Nadien always had something to say, and whilst his ethos may be frankly derived from Heifetz, his individuality is such that he stands as a soloist with his own highly developed arsenal of expressive tools at his disposal.

It’s most instructive to hear him in Franck’s sonata, with pianist David Hancock in New York in 1968. They take the first movement deftly, not lingering overmuch, and allowing maximal contrast to fall between the movements and not, as can often happen, for ennui to set in through undifferentiation of mood, texture or tempo. This is a well characterised performance, powerfully projected and the finale is a good example of purposeful ensemble playing. We hear Nadien’s characteristically tight vibrato, of course, and at one or two points moments where his phrasing sounds just a touch calculated - but this is refined and elegant playing indeed.

His Debussy sonata performance is a direct one. The ethos is not especially Gallic - not in the way Thibaud, or Dubois or Francescatti were in their own ways, recognisably Gallic, or Franco-Belgian - but it retains independence on its own terms. One either accepts the oscillatory and fervid vibrato usage, or one doesn’t. I happen to find the playing here rather too suave, but that’s a phrasal (and personal) matter - but certainly the end could be more decisively stated.

The Fauré Berceuse is played quite quickly, but such is Nadien’s control of rubato that by the end one may not think so at all. It’s a question more of accenting, than tempo as such. The Ravel is played with élan and style and technical command.

There’s a small conundrum; Cembal d’amour claims a 1968 recording date for the LP, whilst Forgotten Records suggests instead 1958.

Jonathan Woolf