Bartok: Violin Sonata No. 2; Rhapsody No. 1; Rhapsody No. 2; Romanian Folkdances

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COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi Les nouveaux interprtes
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 2; Rhapsody No. 1; Rhapsody No. 2; Romanian Folkdances
PERFORMER: Isabelle Faust (violin), Florent Boffard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMN 911702
Isabelle Faust follows up her acclaimed recording of Bartók’s First Violin Sonata with an equally powerful recording of his intricate Second. This is a vividly coloured reading, fraught with dramatic intensity. Whereas in Isaac Stern’s hands the work is remote and reflective in its taut lyricism, Faust couples fiery passion with a lavish tone that gives it almost a Romantic quality, with lush portamentos in places. Again, in the second movement, where Stern keeps the opening edgy and reined-in, Faust’s reading has more expressive drive. Florent Boffard makes an inspired and imaginative partner throughout, his piano textures limpid and exceptionally refined.

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Faust and Boffard also give exquisite readings of the two Rhapsodies. Faust’s rapid vibrato adds to the romancing Hungarian flavour of the tempestuous opening and enriches the plaintive, more reflective theme that follows, while the second movement is animated by a fantastic, driving energy. In the Rhapsody No. 2, she couples spontaneous exuberance in the first movement with a thoughtful, considered air, and shows impressive virtuosity in the breakneck passages of the second.

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The Romanian Folkdances, originally written for piano, are beautifully characterised, from the blissfully spacious phrases of the ‘Sash Danse’ to the high-wire harmonics of the exotic ‘In one spot’ and the lithe capering of the riotous ‘Romanian Polka’. These two fine players prove themselves as skilful at bringing to life these charming vignettes as they are in revealing the full intensity of Bartók’s more complex imaginings. Catherine Nelson