Franck: Violin Sonata in A; String Quartet in D

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: Praga/Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A; String Quartet in D
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Oleg Maisenberg (piano); Prague City Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: PR 250 024 DDD
The sleeve note does not mention that this is a ‘live’ recording of Franck’s famous Violin Sonata. Armed with this knowledge, the manifest deficiencies of the performance would be more explicable, even if no less excusable. The Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer wheezes, sniffs, growls and, most surprisingly of all, seems to be standing on a creaking floorboard. Either that or someone in the audience is cracking walnuts.

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For all that it is claimed to be a digital recording, this sounds more like a hangover from the days of analogue tape. To be fair, this may have been a tremendous live concert. The recording is 12 years old and there must be some reason why it has been dredged up for this compilation. The technical problems diminish considerably halfway through, and you can feel some of the excitement, dynamism and sheer brute strength of this sonata shining through. Kremer hurtles into climaxes, bow bouncing on the strings, and withdraws equally swiftly into introspective diminuendi. It is an abrupt, exaggerated performance that will perhaps win admirers in spite of the poor sound quality.

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The string quartet with which it is coupled is not a live recording, and is 14 years old. It is a respectable performance that is at times a little shrill, and marred by unfortunate lapses in intonation. Here, there are no technical problems. Christopher Lambton