This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
By a useful coincidence, just minutes before receiving this stimulating set of performances I had been listening to a glorious old Classics Club recording of the First Sonata with violinist Louis Kaufman and pianist Helen Pignari. The contrast was telling: Kaufman’s luscious violin line and old-world phrasing (plenty of downward portamentos) set against the lean, lightly bowed and subtly variegated tone production of Pamela Frank. How times – and styles – have changed. And yet for all my love of Kaufman’s playing, Frank’s free-spirited reportage is so much more eventful and thought-provoking that I would hate to be without it. Both she and Peter Serkin make a nutritious meal out of the First Sonata’s opening Vivace ma non troppo, supple and
low-key but action-packed, with Serkin’s quiet trills meaningfully mirroring Frank’s shuddering double-stopped arpeggios (2'32''). The development section tightens perceptibly, building by stages from around 3'52'', then calming at 5'54'' for a beautifully judged amble back to the principal theme. The Adagio is delicate, limpid and sensitively set up by Serkin; note, too, Frank’s meticulously graded chords and her chaste playing of the finale’s opening theme. The first page of the Second Sonata finds her adapting her lean but strong tone to the music’s mellower sound world, with Serkin offering her colourfully pedalled support, and I loved their hushed playing of the transition to the finale’s second set, at 1'02'' (track 6). True, Peter Serkin’s pedalling sometimes registers on the recording as mechanical action (i.e. as a sort of distant thunder), but you soon get used to it.
In the Third Sonata, the balance of power shifts from Frank to Serkin, with the most impressive pianistic storm blowing up at around 4'29'' into the finale. But there is delicacy aplenty, too – not least in the Scherzo, where Serkin points the descending bass accompaniment (at 0'27''). The Adagio is very slow indeed, effectively so for most of its duration though some might feel that the more flowing tempo chosen by some of Frank’s best rivals is musically more appropriate. Viktoria Mullova takes a nifty 4'04'' to compare with Frank’s and Serkin’s 6'00'', though it is the latter team that leaves the strongest musical impression.
Decca’s recordings are both intimate and realistic and I would say that, of modern digital, single-disc recordings of this repertoire, this is the best we have had – with the matchlessly eloquent Grumiaux/Sebok recording still serving as essential analogue back-up.'
-- Gramophone [11/1998]
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