Debussy, Franck, Ravel: Violin Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Debussy,Franck,Ravel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Debussy, Franck: Violin Sonatas; Ravel: Violin Sonata in G
PERFORMER: Jennifer Pike (violin), Martin Roscoe (piano)

A fine recital disc of French sonatas from an established violinist would not usually raise the eyebrows. Barely into her twenties, Jennifer Pike is already a veteran, having grabbed the headlines as the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2002. She has been a regular presence in the concert hall since then, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to note that this enjoyable disc appears to be her debut recording.
These three sonatas sit extremely well together, providing a stimulating blend of stylistic resonances and contrasts from composers at the height of their powers. Pike finds much to relish in them, not only in her beautiful, singing tone, but also in moments of hushed mystery, all captured in an admirably clear recording that slightly over-favours the violin. 
Debussy’s multiple gear-changes, Ravel’s jazz-inflected musings and Franck’s intense emotions are negotiated with ease. She experiments beguilingly with varied tone-colours, notably in the opening movement of the Debussy, at the start of the Ravel Sonata’s ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ and the ‘Recitativo-Fantasia’ of the Franck, all masterfully supported by Martin Roscoe.
Indeed, there are numerous places where Pike has inspiring timbral ideas. If there is a caveat, it is that some other passages are a little staid by comparison, and a little more fluidity of tempo would be a welcome addition to her armoury. Nonetheless, such moments are rare, and these engaging performances of all three works bode well for the next steps in Pike’s career. Christopher Dingle