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Franck, Ysaye: Works For Cello & Piano / Kniazev, Mangova

Franck / Kniazev / Mangova / Ysaye
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Fuga Libera   Catalog #: 587   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  César FranckEugčne Ysa˙e
Performer:  Alexander KniazevPlamena Mangova
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FRANCK Violin Sonata in A. Nocturne. YSAźE Berceuse. Poème élégiaque Alexander Kniazev (vc); Plamena Mangova (pn) FUGA LIBERA 587 (55:10)

As with so many new recordings of old repertoire, Alexander Kniazev and Plamena Mangova are sparring with the ghosts of cello-piano duos past, although the Ysaÿe pieces have fewer competitors than usual. The Berceuse is actually an orchestral piece for Read more strings, flute, and two horns—recorded as such on cpo 777051—then transcribed for piano. With no mention in the notes who made the cello-piano transcription, I must assume it was Kniazev. Poème élégiaque was originally for violin and piano, and in this context it is available in performances by Tedi Papavrami (Aeon 1088) and Sandrine Cantoreggi (Turtle 15). Perhaps, again, a Kniazev transcription.

The Franck transcriptions, or at least one of them, are quite a bit more famous. Nocturne is a song, best performed on disc by Souzay, Graham, and Fischer-Dieskau, but the Sonata in A is well known in both its original form for violin and this transcription by Jules Delsart. Among recordings of the cello version are those by Steven Isserlis, two different performances in fact (with Pascal Devoyon, Virgin Classics 61198, 1990s, and with Stephen Hough, Hyperion 67376, 2003) and a very famous EMI recording by the legendary Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim (available both as a conventional CD and as an mp3 download at ArkivMusic). Now, this is very curious, but what I find interesting in relistening to Du Pré is her tone. It’s not at all as wide, cushy, or plush as many cellists today. Indeed, by comparison her sound is very bright, almost laser-like, yet with a vibrato just a touch slower than we’re used to hearing. I say these things not in criticism—I am a huge Du Pré fan—but merely by way of description. And of course, even during her active career it was not specifically her tone that captured listeners’ imaginations, but the intensity of her expression, and that is what one hears so clearly in her performance of the Franck Sonata. By contrast, Kniazev is smooth, rich, with a fat tone and impeccable technical control. Not a note sounds rough or difficult under his fingers, and he certainly plays expressively, but in the end the edge in this recording goes to the pianist, Mangova, whose performance is just so much more structural, dynamic, and better paced than Barenboim’s, though this is certainly better-than-average Barenboim.

Kniazev’s playing of the Ysaÿe Berceuse is remarkable for its bittersweet, elegiac tone and feeling, and Mangova’s piano is right there with him. The 1892 Poème élégiaque, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, became famous by osmosis, as it was claimed to have directly influenced Chausson’s Poème of 1896. A friend of mine, listening to the disc with me, complained bitterly of the sonics on this piece, saying that it made the cello sound like a buzz saw in the upper register, but I did not hear that. Your ears may differ. I have to admit that I don’t like the piece itself. It is considerably inferior Ysaÿe, meandering in development and almost mawkishly sentimental in places; but again, you may feel differently. There is an impassioned climax at around the six-minute mark that really sounds like the kind of self-conscious heart-on-sleeve sobbing that one experiences in certain Tchaikovsky works. Perhaps I would feel differently about it if I liked either the themes or the structure, but as I said, neither appeals to me very much. Overall, however, a very fine disc.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, M 8 by César Franck
Performer:  Alexander Kniazev (Cello), Plamena Mangova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Venue:  Brussels, Salle Ravenstein 
Length: 30 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Nocturne by César Franck
Performer:  Alexander Kniazev (Cello), Plamena Mangova (Piano)
Written: 1884 
Venue:  Brussels, Salle Ravenstein 
Length: 4 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Berceuse for Violin and Orchestra, op. 20 by Eugčne Ysa˙e
Performer:  Alexander Kniazev (Cello), Plamena Mangova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Brussels, Salle Ravenstein 
Length: 5 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Počme élégiaque, Op. 12 by Eugčne Ysa˙e
Performer:  Alexander Kniazev (Cello), Plamena Mangova (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1895; Belgium 
Venue:  Brussels, Salle Ravenstein 
Length: 13 Minutes 43 Secs. 

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