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Danwen Jiang: Live In Concert

Debussy / Franck / Ravel / Jiang / Cosand
Release Date: 01/08/2013 
Label:  Soundset   Catalog #: 1045   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Claude DebussyCésar FranckMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter CosandDanwen Jiang
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DEBUSSY Violin Sonata in g. FRANCK Violin Sonata in A. RAVEL Violin Sonata in G Danwen Jiang (vn); Walter Cosand (pn) SOUNDSET 1045 (58:31)

Danwen Jiang is a Chinese-born violinist who studied in the United States and currently teaches at Arizona State University. Pianist Walter Cosand is professor of music at the same school. Recently, they performed the music of Debussy, Franck, Read more and Ravel at a concert which was recorded live. The first selection on the disc is Debussy’s 1915 Violin Sonata in G Minor. At that point in time he made some changes in his style of composition. He simplified his structures and made his textures thinner. Some of the writing in this sonata indicates his appreciation of newer ideas that were permeating the musical world at that time. That, as well as the lightness and animation of this sonata, belie the fact that the composer was ill with cancer and would die soon after. Jiang and Cosand’s live performance in front of an audience brings with it an aura of excitement. The low notes that Jiang draws from her 1727 Stradivarius, known as the ex-Ries, are absolutely exquisite. The top is a bit lean, but that is what Debussy said he wanted for this piece. Cosand is a fine collaborator and his playing is exemplary. The second movement, which is marked Fantasque et légere, is played with a teasing, light touch on the part of both musicians. Jiang tosses off bits of bravura as though they were as natural as breathing. In the final movement her playing has a limpid quality punctuated by fast trills and runs that are as smooth as glass. There are other excellent recordings of the Debussy, of which the Szigeti and Bartók disc is the most famous. Their older Hungaroton recording is now mainly available for download and it does not have modern sound. In any case, Jiang and Cosand do not really compete with them.

The second piece on this disc is the well-loved Sonata in A Major by César Franck. He wrote it in 1886 and presented it as a wedding gift to violinist Eugène Ysaÿe who, after a quick rehearsal with a guest who was a pianist, played it for the party. Making use of a technique oft employed by Franz Liszt, Franck takes themes from one movement and restates them later on in different versions. Thus, all the movements of this work have a common thread. The theme that begins the second movement has a restless quality and almost a Wagnerian chromaticism. Jiang and Cosand play it with a constant forward motion that never allows the tension to slacken. They capture the essence of this piece with their playing and bring all its intensity to the stage for the finale. There are quite a few other recordings that contain both the Debussy and the Franck. Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis render them with consummate virtuosity on a 1997 Deutsche Grammophon recording but their version lacks emotional impact. Joshua Bell and Jean-Yves Thibaudet play them on a Decca recording originally made in 1990 and rereleased in 2001. Their Debussy has a richer tone than the composer may have wanted, but their rendition of the Franck is one of the best on disc. The sound quality is not up to today’s state of the art, however. Maurice Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G Major is quite different from the previous two pieces because it was inspired by American themes. The influences of both jazz and blues are quite evident. It’s great fun to hear and the two professors from Arizona play all of it, but most particularly the Perpetuum Mobile, with great virtuosity and total abandon. Anne Akiko Meyers also plays this Ravel sonata with passion and sensitivity on a 2004 Avie disc, but I prefer the ambiance of the live recording. The sound is pristine and the listener has the impression of being seated in a small hall with good acoustics.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Danwen Jiang (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; France 
Date of Recording: 02/06/2004 
Venue:  Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State Unive 
Length: 13 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, M 8 by César Franck
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Danwen Jiang (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Date of Recording: 02/06/2004 
Venue:  Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State Unive 
Length: 27 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Cosand (Piano), Danwen Jiang (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1927; France 
Date of Recording: 02/06/2004 
Venue:  Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State Unive 
Length: 18 Minutes 15 Secs. 

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