Chausson • Franck • Grieg

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chausson; Franck; Grieg
LABELS: Orchid
ALBUM TITLE: Chausson • Franck • Grieg
WORKS: Chausson: Poeme; Franck: Violin Sonata in A; Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G
PERFORMER: Callum Smart (violin); Gordon Black (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 100040

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This is an exuberantly assured debut. Violinist Callum Smart first came to prominence as the winner, aged just 13, of the strings category in the 2010 BBC Young Musician competition. This well crafted recording suggests that such early success is no flash in the pan. The three works provide plenty of scope for the clear lyricism of Smart’s playing, while he comfortably inhabits their markedly different soundworlds.

Grieg’s Sonata No. 2 is the highlight, not just for Smart and pianist Gordon Back’s technical assurance, but also for their charming handling of its sudden twists and turns, each teasing marvellously in the folk-like final movement. The second movement’s impetuous changes of direction, which can easily sound forced, are utterly convincing here.

It is heartening in the Franck and Grieg to find that Smart is not entirely averse to the judicious use of portamento, for his playing has an easy grace perfectly suited to make the most of such nuances. The violin and piano version of Chausson’s Poème is the least effective item, but Smart and Back find plenty of passion and freedom. They give an enjoyable performance of the Franck, well paced with nothing out of place, but it will be fascinating to hear how much more Smart has made the work his own in future years.

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Christopher Dingle