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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 18 (TrV 151) (1887) [28:37]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [24:45]
Brieuc Vourch (violin)
Guillaume Vincent (piano)
rec. November 2020, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany
FARAO CLASSICS B108112 [53:24]

This recital of two contemporaneous violin sonatas would appear to be a début recording for these young musicians: Brieuc Vourch (b. 1995) and Guillaume Vincent (b. 1991). On this showing, it will surely be the first of many. These two works have previously been coupled on disc and the notes by the performers claim that “the two composers are among the strongest, bravest and most creative minds of the romantic eras”. Strauss was just 23 when he wrote his only violin sonata. Franck was nearing the end of his life, aged 64 at the time of composition. The Franck is undoubtedly much better known but the Strauss is a quality sonata, especially in such a committed performance.

The notes, which don’t go into the details of composition of either work, make for a somewhat flowery start with a quotation by Arnold Schoenberg who asserted that: “the only revolutionary of the time was Richard Strauss”. Even in this early Strauss work, the listener is aware of a wildly romantic composer and this is apparent from the first bars. There is an elegiac quality that permeates much of Strauss’s orchestral work and here the romantic element is no-holds-barred. Vourch and Vincent are equal partners and they avoid lapsing into syrup; instead you are aware of a hard edge. I was immediately struck by the tangible quality of the sound and this is a credit to the engineers. While the microphones pick up intakes of breath it is no big issue. The key movement is the second movement Improvisation-Andante cantabile which is highly plaintive and lyrical. If the first movement has echoes of The Ring, the second owes more to Schumann and Brahms, whilst being clearly from a younger composer. The piano improvisation recalls lieder by Schubert but I wouldn’t want to make too much of the work’s derivations. Both players seem very much of one accord here and then in the Finale, which is a real tour de force. I made some comparisons with the recording by Vilde Frang and Michail Lifits on EMI/Warner (favourably reviewed by Göran Forsling) and thought they were both excellent. If pushed, I prefer Vourch and Vincent, but I’d be happy with either; preferably both.

The performance of Franck’s well-known Violin Sonata by these two fine young musicians is in balanced harmony. After the more introspective opening movement, true romance bursts through at the start of the second movement and both performers are fully up to the challenge it presents. In the third movement, Recitivo-Fantasia. Ben Moderato, Vourch shows his prowess and feeling for the music; yet he is never indulgent but remains true to the composer’s intentions. There are many fine versions. I think immediately of Perlman and Ashkenazy on Decca but I felt no need to compare; I just enjoyed the performance on this disc. The trembling violin is well captured, as is the piano and that is not always easy. The most lyrically memorable movement is the Finale-Allegretto poco mosso which goes wonderfully well. Overall, this recording can certainly join the many others of this fine piece. I also have a version by Jacqueline du Pré playing the cello transcription which is equally superb.

This is an impressive CD of two grand sonatas. I could mention that there might be room for another work on the 53 minute disc but I was perfectly happy with these sonatas that are so well performed. I look forward to further recordings from this very promising duo.
 
David R Dunsmore





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