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Franck, Saint-saëns, Ravel / Sarah Chang, Lars Vogt

Release Date: 05/04/2004 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 57679   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  César FranckMaurice RavelCamille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Sarah ChangLars Vogt
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Those who remember Sarah Chang as a gyrating, swooping, pre-pubescent prodigy, moving more than the meaning would bear, may be surprised to hear what she’s derived from the intervening years of study and reflection. Not only does she adapt her essentially lush tone to the expressive requirements of Franck’s, Saint-Saëns’s, and Ravel’s diverse sensibilities, but also she deploys a wealth of special devices to recreate each. In Franck’s sonata, she captures the hushed mystery and transcendent ecstasy, respectively, of the first and last movements as well as the earthier passion of the second and the exclamatory urgency of the third. Her portamentos in the first movement, calibrated to each phrase, constitute select pleasures in Read more themselves, albeit on the micro level. The dynamic range the two players have spanned — and EMI’s engineers have seemingly represented in full — provides a more vigorous emotional analog of the work’s subtler architectonic elements. Some of the intensity the duo brought to Franck spills over into Saint-Saëns’s First Sonata, a work that’s customarily been identified with Heifetz. If Chang captures more of its sweetness, she communicates just that much less of its tangy piquancy. Still, the reading doesn’t sound at all bland — it’s subtle enough, and that in the best unstudied way, to avoid even a suggestion of vapidity — even if it doesn’t make some of the archest phrases linger in the memory (as did, for example, Dong Suk Kang on Naxos 8.550276). Likewise, in the final perpetual motion, she may not equal Heifetz’s chattery brilliance nor even Gil Shaham’s all-agog, runaway excitement (Deutsche Grammophon, 429 729-2), but the duo’s shattering dynamic contrasts spotlight the soaring climaxes. In this sonata, however, Chang’s and Vogt’s sustained ardor, which raised Franck’s sonata to empyreal heights, can sound at length a bit tiring, if perhaps not tiresome. If Chang’s tone seems a bit buttery for Ravel’s leaner fare (even Grumiaux’s relatively uncluttered timbres seemed at times detrimental in this sonata), she manages to inflect it so subtly in the first movement that the flexibility, rather than the general richness, makes the deeper impression. Still, Szigeti, above all, revealed an almost surreal world of elusive communication in this piece that others, including Chang, have at least partly missed. Chang does affect a sort of tantalizing bluesiness in the second movement, even if it’s not so wry or tongue-in-cheek as Szigeti’s (if only Szigeti could have played the violin as well as Chang does). And she and Vogt bring undeniable panache to the finale.

The program begins so auspiciously that it’s somewhat disheartening to sense the highly charged atmosphere dissipate through Saint-Saëns’s and Ravel’s sonatas. Of course, Saint-Saëns still bears Heifetz’s signature, and lots of violinists fizzle in Ravel’s sideways little work. But, comparisons aside, this effort, even in its least propitious moments, bears scrutiny and attention. And the Franck sonata’s a blockbuster—as is the recorded sound. Recommended overall—and the Franck, in particular, to skeptics, who should prepare themselves for adventure. -ROBERT MAXHAM, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, M 8 by César Franck
Performer:  Sarah Chang (Violin), Lars Vogt (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Date of Recording: 05/2003 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 27 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Lars Vogt (Piano), Sarah Chang (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1927; France 
Date of Recording: 05/2003 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 24 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 75 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Lars Vogt (Piano), Sarah Chang (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; France 
Date of Recording: 05/2003 
Venue:  Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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