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Cesar Franck
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major
Johannes Brahms
Sonata for Violin and Piano Number 3 
In D Minor Op. 108
David Oistrakh, Violin
Sviatoslav Richter, Piano

Review by Ray Chowkwanyun
Click here to e-mail reviewer

Cesar Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major

LP Number: Angel SR40121 (Melodiya CM2257)

 

  The Franck A Major is one of the most accessible pieces in the classical repertoire. The composer wears his bleeding heart on his sleeve. This is Romantic music with a capital "R". From the first note he tugs at your heartstrings. Tripling our pleasure is the chance to hear two of the Great Russians strutting their stuff. Oistrakh had the technical chops of a Heifetz, but with heart. Too often with Heifetz one feels one is listening to a machine, albeit one superbly equipped. With Oistrakh one gets the best of both worlds, all the technique plus the feeling. Richter, well he was one of the giants of the keyboard. A great soloist is not always the best choice in chamber music, but here he works hand in glove with Oistrakh.

The reading these two give to the Franck reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where the kid pours syrup onto his breakfast of Chocolate Covered Sugar Bombs. They take a piece that is already soaked to the hilt in Romanticism and proceed to take it up another notch. I have heard more restrained performances of this piece that offer more nuance and filigree. Not that this performance isn't nuanced, but the balance is definitely in favor of big two fisted emotionalism. It is a huge overpowering performance with Oistrakh producing a tone that sounds like double thick delicious gloopy cream. Yum! Richter actually sounds somewhat restrained by contrast but only because his leader is pouring it on.

If I had to choose one word to describe the Franck it would be Victorian. The whole is evocative of musty 19th century drawing rooms packed to the gills with brick a brac. The violin sustains long wailing notes. The piano ripples gently beneath, emerging occasionally for a gently ruminative solo. But always the violin returns with a slashing jab.

The Brahms is as Romantic as the Franck, but is subtler and has more depth. Brahms is by far the more sophisticated composer and develops his themes to a much greater extent. For this reason the Brahms stands up better to repeated listening than the Franck. The Brahms also has greater propulsive flow. Richter especially becomes energized at the 5 minute mark and drives the music along. Oistrakh carves an elegant path through the score throwing off the phrases with aristocratic ease. In their hands, the Brahms is the musical equivalent of the Elise - 200 ponies in a 2,000 pound car: quick, light and delightfully, dartingly fast.

The second movement is autumnal in mood. Typically of Brahms, this is an autumn of the warm golden variety. The third movement is a lively sprite, full of jerky rhythms and twists and turns. The last movement is filled with drama which Oistrakh and Richter deliver with vim and vigor. 

This is a concert recording so there is the occasional cough to put up with but nothing to signify. Certainly nothing on the scale of Richter's infamous Sofia recording of Pictures. The recording is lacking in air at the high end so the piano sounds tubby.

 

 

Enjoyment: 90

Sound Quality: 80

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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