Things are not nearly as bad for the admirer or potential admirer of Stanford’s chamber music as they were a couple of decades ago. The Clarinet Sonata has had a good run for its money on disc and the two violin sonatas have been recorded, but much remained on the shelf. Now we have a three-CD box of the complete music for violin and piano from Alberto Bologni and Christopher Howell.
This important set contains the sixteen Beethoven sonatas that Wilhelm Kempff recorded for Grammophon in Germany between 1940 and 1943. Several are reissued here for the first time since their original release on 78rpm discs and none are currently available elsewhere. The sound is excellent for the period and all reveal the young Kempff at his best, in performances that compliment his later thoughts. The release is the companion of two previous APR releases of early Kempff Beethoven recordings the late sonatas (APR6018) and piano concertos 1, 3, 4 & 5 (APR6019), both of which received excellent reviews and were amongst APRs best sellers.
The gifted Belgian Quatuor Danel turn to two masterpieces by César Franck: his passionate Piano Quintet and the String Quartet. The three-movement Quintet, like Brahms’s op. 34 an expansion of the Schumannian model, is one of Franck’s most infamous works. It immediately established itself, and a second performance with the pianist Marie Poitevin, the later dedicatee of the Prélude, Choral et Fugue, convinced the members of the Société Nationale. Franck’s String Quartet, his last major work, was similarly acclaimed by its first listeners. After its first performance in April 1890, with tears in his eyes, César Franck is said to have told his pupil Vincent d’Indy, “Now you see: at long last the public is beginning to understand me.”
The centrepiece of this French-themed recital by Kyung Wha Chung and Kevin Kenner is the splendid violin sonata by César Franck. It is a work long associated with Chung, described by the Financial Times as “one of the greatest violinists of the last half-century”. Newer to Chung’s repertoire is Fauré’s Sonata No 1. As she told Strings magazine, each of the works constitutes “a whole portrait of life itself,” and she drew a comparison with Monet’s paintings: “The reflection of light has endless possibility. The same thing applies to the texture and the sound when you’re playing. There are millions of sounds.”