Notes and Editorial Reviews
Jerrold Rubenstein (vn); Dalia Ouziel (pn)
TALENT 2911 117 (70:30)
Pianist Dalia Ouziel’s opening measures in César Franck’s Violin Sonata display nuanced stylistic sensitivity that nevertheless doesn’t spill over the line into mannerism and seems all the more effective for its restraint. Her partner in the duo,
Jerrold Rubenstein, playing a 1717 Joseph Guarnerius filius Andreæ, sounds, if anything, a bit more straightforward but nevertheless serves as a compatible sonata partner. Ouziel is crystal-clear in the opening of the second movement (not allowing the movement’s torrents to muddy the waters), and Rubenstein enters commandingly. Still, occasional roughness in his bowing makes his tone production in this movement seem rougher than Isaac Stern’s or David Oistrakh’s. The following Recitativo burns white-hot toward its end, but it’s not perhaps in these heated moments that the duo’s performance makes the deepest impression but in the more lyrical moments. The canonic finale may strike some listeners as insufficiently rapt in the duo’s reading; in this regard, it serves as a perfect storm, bringing together Rubenstein’s somewhat monochromatic tone production and Ouziel’s penchant for clarity.
Guillaume Lekeu’s sonata from a half decade later breathes its melodies with similar rhythms and exhibits similar sensibilities—and, as Jean-Pierre Finotto’s notes point out, similar architectonic devices, whatever their varying mixtures of lightness and dark. Rubenstein and Ouziel employ a wide range of dynamics in unfolding the rhapsodic first movement, with Ouziel remaining pellucid in passages in which she supports more impassioned outpourings above her. Lekeu’s winding opening melody in the second movement seems to meander somewhat aimlessly in this reading at moments when it might give the impression of sensitive reflection or breathless anticipation (as in recordings by Arthur Grumiaux with Dinorah Varsi, rereleased on Philips Eloquence, 442 8299,
31:4, and by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien on Hyperion 67820,
35:3); this impression endures until the movement’s end. On the other hand, both violinist and pianist communicate the last movement’s urgency from the very beginning, and in such moments of heightened expressivity, the duo brings Lekeu’s sonata closer to Franck’s (arguably the writing more closely approaches Franck’s in these passages as well), although the rawness of Rubenstein’s timbres makes the climaxes seem less overwhelming than they might be.
Eugène Ysaÿe’s Andante (Finotto speculates that it might have come from an early violin concerto) sounds a great deal less chromatic than the composer’s later works for the violin, and recalls, in its chords and double-stops, as well as in its plentiful arpeggios, the writing for violin of Henri Vieuxtemps, Ysaÿe’s teacher (a connection also made by Finotto). Its bowings across the strings require a silken smoothness, demands that expose the stiffer fabric from which Rubenstein’s technique has been cut, but it’s an engaging, if brief, movement (Rubenstein gave it its premiere recording in its orchestral version in the 1980s).
Talent’s somewhat low-temperature (but high-clarity) recorded sound seems particularly appropriate in its lack of reverberation to the kind of performance that the duo has conceived for the two sonatas and the Andante. Since collectors can choose between recordings as radiant as Oistrakh’s (with Sviatoslav Richter), and Jacques Thibaud’s (with Alfred Cortot) of Franck’s, and Arthur Grumiaux’s or Yehudi Menuhin’s of Lekeu’s, the decision about Talent’s release will probably appeal most strongly to those who wish to hear Ysaÿe’s Andante in Rubenstein’s reduction for violin and piano. Recommended primarily to those listeners.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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