SCHUBERT Fantasie in C, D 934. Sonata in A, D 574. Rondo brillant in b, D 895 • Isabelle Faust (vn); Alexander Melnikov (pn) • HARMONIA MUNDI 901870 (57:47)
Isabelle Faust has brought strong-minded musical determination and steely strength to everything I’ve heard her play, and Schubert’s no exception. It’s therefore especially interesting to hear how stronglyRead more she can characterize Schubert’s supremely awkward works for violin and piano. It’s no surprise that the long held note and tremolo with which the Fantasie begins sound foreboding rather than tranquil. Many almost disturbing ideas lurk in the shadows of this work, and Faust and Melnikov explore them with such sensitivity to their Cimmerian grumblings as well as to their piercing sweetness that the return of the opening near the end of the third-movement Andantino brings to their culmination all the foregoing expressive elements that have arisen from the darkest Schubertian regions. And Faust’s hard edge enables her to play with the requisite magisterial authority in the finale’s climactic passages. In her performance with Melnikov, the work grows to the proportions of the supreme masterpiece it has always been assumed to be. But Faust doesn’t approach everything so aggressively: her performance of the Sonata in A Major reveals its silvery lyricism as well as its velvet blackness. Faust’s and Melnikov’s Scherzo, however, explodes in supernova-like bursts of energy, a celestial furnace rather than a glowing campfire, and burns away all that might suggest mere Gemütlichkeit. The first strokes of the Rondo, however, usher in an even braver new world of expression, highlighted by a violinistic brilliance not often elicited in Schubert’s works. The sheer power, urgency, and animal excitement that Faust and Melnikov bring to this work sweep everything before them.
The 1701 Sleeping Beauty Stradivari, loaned to Faust, sounds as strong as she does in these performances; the recorded sound, however wide in its dynamic range, allows the violin to disappear occasionally into the piano’s cavernous depths, especially during several of the Fantasie’s tumultuous passages. But in evaluating performances of such riveting penetration and authority, the recorded sound must assume a secondary—or even tertiary—role. Strongly recommended (and more easily than Pamela and Claude Franck’s collaboration on Arte Nova 721280, 28:6 or Renaud Capuçon and Jérôme Ducros’s recent one on Virgin 63303) for unflinching revelations of a Schubert as a bull in the china shop of a genial Viennese soirée.
First-rate in every wayMarch 4, 2014By T. Hanson (Lake Linden, MI)See All My Reviews"Dynamic performances, great recorded sound, and two of the three pieces are top-notch Schubert (I can live without the Rondo). A purchase I did not regret."Report Abuse