R. STRAUSS Violin Sonata. Auf Stillem Waldespfad (arr. Heifetz). FRANCK Violin Sonata. Mélancolie. Prelude, Fugue, and Variation in b • Augustin Dumay (vn); Louis Lortie (pn) • ONYX 4096 (73:10)
Violinist Augustin Dumay and pianist Louis Lortie present a program anchored by the violin sonatas of Richard Strauss and CésarRead more Franck and enhanced by some arrangements of the composers’ shorter works for violin and piano. To the opening of Strauss’s large-scale sonata, both Dumay and Lortie take what some might consider a quieter, more nuanced approach; and though Dumay soars in the higher registers in the more extroverted opening theme, he recedes into a more introspective mood in the subsidiary material. This kind of approach reveals the sonata’s personality in all three dimensions—it doesn’t seem just a bit of youthful bravura in their reading. They bring a drawing-room sensibility to the outer sections of the slow movement, and that intimacy returns in the slow introduction to the finale and in the subsidiary theme, once again revealing more complexity in the work’s personality than have some (including Jascha Heifetz, who recorded it twice—might he have been attracted by its large scale?—after all, he had approached Sergei Prokofiev to write a concerto for violin and piano). Perhaps most noticeably in the slow movement, the engineers have captured a great deal of fairly loud breathing. Would an audience member at a live recital, seated at a respectful distance from the performers, notice such an intrusion? The short piece, Auf stillem Waldespfad, arranged by Heifetz, reinforces the more interior approach the performers take to the sonata.
If a contemporary exponent of Franck’s Violin Sonata more imbued with the Franco-Belgian style of its dedicatee, Eugène Ysaÿe could be found, it’s hard to guess where: Dumay studied for a time with Arthur Grumiaux, who exemplified the school for several generations in the middle of the 20th century. If Grumiaux remained relatively straightforward in playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo works for violin—and elsewhere—while maintaining a cool elegance, Dumay’s reading of the first movement of Franck’s sonata with Lortie explores loamier expressivity, while still managing to recall Grumiaux’s chasteness. In the matter of sheer elegance, he leaves Isaac Stern’s ruddy warmth sounding almost coarse. The performers recorded the program in Normandy’s church of Saint-Denis-le-Ferment, and some of the venue’s atmosphere may have soaked into the performance itself. The second movement hardly sounds reticent—or churchly—however, and in its more meditative moments both Dumay and Lortie make it seem haunting indeed. Though the contrasts in Franck’s work may be more apparent than those in Strauss’s, the duo still manages to reveal them in unexpected chiaroscuro. The “Recitativo-Fantasia” turns more reflective in its second half; Dumay and Lortie make the most of this change in atmosphere. In the canonic finale, however, they reverse the expressive order, making a more restrained case for the first theme and building to climaxes—which turn out to be mighty ones, later on, but returning again and again to the more subdued opening mood when the initial theme makes its reappearance. They’ve chosen two shorter pieces by Franck to round out the program: a relatively unfamiliar original piece, Mélancolie (subtitled transcription d’apres une leçon de solfège) and an organ piece arranged by Dumay and Lortie themselves (but, according to the notes, based upon an earlier transcription by Paul Lemaitre). If the prelude itself remains reticent, the fugue begins with a gregarious gesture; and, as through the set, Dumay and Lortie revel in the contrasts.
In fact, contrasts between light and dark, and flamboyance and trembling shyness inform these performances to an unexampled, and perhaps unexpected, degree. For those seeking a richer, more full-bodied, and even more complex (though not in the intellectual way) reading of these two monumental sonatas, Dumay and Lortie have provided one for the ages. And those who object to programs consisting wholly of sonatas should find that the short pieces with which they’ve fleshed out the recital not only provide a respite from sonata-seriousness but do it in a way that still advances the overall musical argument. Urgently recommended.
Everything As It Should BeJune 26, 2013By Michael R. (Huntington Woods, MI)See All My Reviews"If you are not familiar with these sonatas you need to change matters and doing so with this disc is the way to do it. Both sonatas are of the high romantic period. They are melodic, but with a purpose. There is substance with structure taking the listener to places that only great music can do. The performances are technically of the highest order. The feeling is genuine and there is the sense of spontaneity through out the performances. The recorded sound is very good with life like stereo imaging. I know of other performances that deliver great playing, but not with the up to date sound of this recording. This is now my first choice for these sonatas."Report Abuse