Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasie in C.
Sei mir gegrüsst,
Violin Sonata No. 10
Liza Ferschtman (vn); Inon Barnatan (pn)
CHALLENGE 72174 (57:41)
Liza Ferschtman and Inon Barnatan, in the notes to their recording of Beethoven’s last Violin Sonata and Schubert’s Fantasie in C, focus on the parallels between Beethoven’s and Schubert’s lyrical styles. But their
performance makes the claim even more clearly; and, arguments and rationales aside, Beethoven’s 10th Sonata, quirky and gnomic though it may be in some passages, seems to inhabit a different world from that of the earlier nine. Through the deployment of subtle hesitations and gestures, Ferschtman and Barnatan effectively penetrate that world. Their reading of the first movement sounds much less driving than, say Francescatti’s (Szigeti also played this movement with relaxed, almost Schubertian, geniality), with Ferschtman exploring the gentler side of her wide tonal and dynamic palette and Barnatan playing with a sensitivity that others might reserve for the later composer. A similar approach continues through the contemplative second movement, but the brief Scherzo introduces a brusqueness reminiscent of some of Schubert’s own Scherzos, and the lyrical Poco allegretto, the serenity of some of Schubert’s most flowing melodies.
If anyone can make this connection, Ferschtman and Barnatan seem equipped to do so, Ferschtman by means of a mature tonal and technical command and Barnatan with his full repertoire of articulations, bound together by the duo’s joint musical insight and commitment to the project. Never do they engage in timbral experimentation (as Anne-Sophie Mutter did increasingly through her DVD set of Beethoven’s Sonatas with Lambert Orkis, 26:3), nor do they distort tempos to achieve their expressive effects. The recorded sound, close but not intrusive, represents the tonal beauty of the instruments and makes clear just how secure the duo’s technique remains through this difficult work.
The question then arises: will the duo bring Schubert as close to Beethoven as they brought Beethoven to Schubert? This isn’t easy music to perform—the difficulties of comparatively straightforward music have been compounded in this work. Yet they aren’t obvious technical difficulties, but rather buried ones, so the interpreters’ huge effort can often go not only unrewarded but unrecognized. It’s important to point this out, because Ferschtman makes this piece sound effortless—or perhaps her musicality simply distracts attention from the means by which it’s realized. Surely the Fantasie’s opening, with the violin floating above the undulating piano part, sounds mysteriously seductive in her performance. Here and there, a subtle portamento lends character to a whole passage in the Allegretto. The duo invests each variation of the Andantino with a personality all its own, though always the composer’s. The finale’s theme struts with the elegant pomp of some of the composer’s symphonic movements, but Ferschtman’s brilliant highlights extend the excitement through the movement. If all this isn’t Beethovenian, it’s surely Schubertian—sweet, natural, and tingling with musical sensations. This Schubert Fantasie inhabits a different world, though, from Isabella Faust’s (with Alexander Melnikov, on Harmonia Mundi 901870) in a program of Schubert that I strongly recommended in 30:4 for its “sheer power, urgency, and animal excitement.”
As a revealing sidebar, the duo has arranged the song from which Schubert fashioned the theme for the Fantasie’s variations; and, illuminating and delightful a touch though that may be (and illuminatingly and delightfully played though it may be too), the principal interest of the release lies in the relationships the performers have traced between Beethoven and Schubert. No, that’s not it either. The thing is, this program’s just so very well played—well enough to earn an urgent recommendation for any collection. If you want to hear these works, hear them this way.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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