The violin and piano sonatas of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel draw on foreign idioms: gypsy music in Debussy's case and African-American blues in Ravel's. But they remain completely French works, spiced with something exotic, and British violinist Jennifer Pike forges interpretations that keep this in mind. Start with the "Blues" slow movement of the Ravel Violin Sonata in G major: Pike and her accompanist, Martin Roscoe, avoid exaggerating the bluesy qualities of the music and instead emphasize the odd, almost tense disconnection between violin and piano that, combined with the languid blues melodies, gives this piece its special piquancy.
The most brilliant of Belgian composer César Franck's compositions were written during the final decade of his life; the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, the famous Violin Sonata, the D major String Quartet, and, perhaps most important, the Symphony in D minor are all the products of a single, remarkable five-year period. The Symphony, by no means an immediate success with critics or audiences, has nevertheless become so fused with the popular image of César Franck that it is nearly impossible to think of him without also thinking of this 40-minute orchestral juggernaut.
Franck’s Piano Quintet and Debussy’s String Quartet make an apt and unusual coupling, each work its composer’s only, unsurpassable, contribution to the genre. Both receive authoritative performances from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet.
Violinist Arabella Steinbacher and pianist Robert Kulek continue their great collaboration with a new PENTATONE release, the recording of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in A, which joins Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Op. 18. While Franck’s violin sonata is epic in character, Strauss’ work is full of jovial energy, hope and anticipation. This fusion of elements brilliantly demonstrates the synergy between Steinbacher and Kulek, something we have witnessed during their recital performances over the past few years.
"…An amazing SACD. As interpretations, both of these are in a class of their own, the Franck having strong claims of being the best ever performance of this greatest French late romantic orchestral work. Almost certainly they will never be equalled let alone bettered on SACD." ~SA-CD.net
Arthur Rubinstein had performed Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 many times throughout his concert career; in fact, this was one of the pieces on the program of his first public concert given in 1900. The style in which he plays it is simply captivating. It's not a serious concerto in the German-school, but rather a light-hearted and somewhat amusing concerto. This is probably the most famous recording of the composition, and it's no wonder why. The Symphonic Variations of Cesar Franck are fantastic, full of energy, vitality and French-Romantic beauty.