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Auguste FRANCHOMME (1808-1884)
The Franchomme Project
Frédéric CHOPIN: Ballade No. 2, Op. 38: Andantino; arr. for 4 cellos (transcribed by Louise Dubin) [2:21]
Caprice pour le Violoncelle sur Preciosa de Weber, Op. 24, No. 2 (1841) [5:43]
Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 1 for two cellos (1839) [4:47)
Nocturne, Op. 14, No. 1 for two cellos (1838) [4:29)
From Dix Mélodies Italiennes, Op. 17, No.6 La Norma de Bellini, arr. cello and piano (1840) [5:32]
Caprice, Op. 7, No. 1 for two cellos (1835) [2:08]
Chopin: Prelude, Op. 28, No. 9, arr. for four cellos (transcribed by Louise Dubin) [1:41]
Caprice, Op. 7, No. 9 for two cellos (1835) [3:56]
Solo pour le Violoncelle, Op. 18, No. 3, with piano (1840) [6:58]
Chopin: Marche Funèbre from Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, arr. for four cellos (transc. Dubin) [7:43]
Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 3, arr. for cello and piano [2:48]
Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 2, for two cellos [4:34]
Nocturne, Op. 15, No. 3, for two cellos [5:24]
Chopin: Polonaise Brillante Précédée d’une Introduction, Op. 3, for piano and cello (1829-30 arr. Franchomme 1860) [9:02]
Louise Dubin, Julia Bruskin, Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, Katherine Cherbas (cellos) Hélène Jeanney and Andrea Lam (piano)
rec. Autumn 2012 – Spring 2014, Gene and Shelley Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Union, New Jersey
DELOS DE3469 [67:07]

August Franchomme was one of the most distinguished cellists of his time. Born in Lille he won the Paris Conservatoire’s Premier Prix at sixteen and by his early twenties had established the template that was to last for the rest of his career: soloist, chamber player, orchestral cellist and teacher. His friendship with Chopin was a defining one; he was Chopin’s cellist of choice and they co-wrote – Franchomme the cello part, Chopin the piano – the Grand Duo Concertant sur Robert le Diable de Meyerbeer. The Cello Sonata was dedicated to the French cellist, who prepared his friend’s works for publication after Chopin’s death. He made over fifty arrangements of Chopin’s pieces.

This disc restores Franchomme’s own compositions and arrangements to public hearing – in many cases in premiere recordings. There are three unpublished cello quartets which Louise Dubin - the disc’s musical archæologist and principal cellist – has transcribed from the manuscripts. The four-cello arrangement by Franchomme of Chopin’s Ballade, Op.38 is full of refined elegance, a characteristic feature of the majority of the cellist’s pieces, whether original or borrowed. The Prelude Op.28/9 and the Funeral March movement from the Second Sonata complete the trio of quartets – the last named especially striking in the way it changes the character of the music; I liked the drone-like effect and the varied and sometimes sparing use of vibrato in this performance. It reminds one that Franchomme also arranged this for full orchestra.

The original works attest to the cellist’s sense of modesty and apt lyricism. He was one of the first – if not the very first, the notes tell us – to write cello nocturnes and his Op.15 No.1, for two cellos, has a just parcelling out of lyricism to both instruments. It’s an interesting work and sounds rather Slavic, almost prefiguring Dvořák. The other Nocturnes are finely contrasted: No.2 is warm, whilst No.3 is quicker with a more agitato central panel to stimulate interest. There’s a quiet gravity to the Op.14 No.1 Nocturne, a touch of melancholy too, and its memorable melody is graced by a care for vocalised beauty that fits perfectly with the milieu. A more extrovert side to the cellist can be savoured in the Caprice Op.7 No.1, again for two cellos, where one finds wit, unsullied as it were, by overt virtuosity. Showiness for its own sake, or indeed for any sake, was clearly alien to Franchomme’s nature though Berlioz judged him the best cellist in Paris. The solo for cello and piano, Op.18 No.3, reflects the more salon-based requirements of his art though it’s not lacking in technical accomplishment. The longest piece here is Chopin’s Polonaise Brillante, Op.3, with Franchomme responsible for the revision of Chopin’s cello part. It’s played with spirit by Louise Dubin and Hélène Jeanney.

Dubin has written the invaluable booklet notes and her performances are elegantly and subtly shaped. Her cellistic and pianistic colleagues offer fine support and they have been sensitively recorded. If the aim of this disc was to help start the reclamation of Franchomme then I’d say this is mission accomplished.

Jonathan Woolf


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