Franck, Rachmaninov

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Franck,Rachmaninov
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A. Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19
PERFORMER: Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Alexandre Gurning, Lilya Zilberstein (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57505 2
These two late-Romantic sonatas ought to be uncommon bedfellows, but by a strange coincidence they have shared a CD twice over the past few months – first with Steven Isserlis taking Franck’s optional role for cello (Hyperion, reviewed last month), and now with the brothers Capuçon restoring a more ideal balance between the Belgian’s elusive fire and Rachmaninov’s mother earth. The Franck poses greater interpretative challenges, but Renaud Capuçon’s thoughtful partnership with Alexandre Gurning is unusual by any standards. Rather than suggesting the refined poetic dialogues found in sweeter versions of the opening movement like Kyung-Wha Chung’s with Radu Lupu, this duo urges a pressing post-Tristan disquiet which merely reaches its peak in the explosive second movement. It’s left to the Recitativo-Fantasia to probe the philosophic consequences of all this unrest; opening up to a strong, pure line in the wide-intervalled phrase Franck marks dramatico. The path is then more or less clear to a beautifully flowing finale which benefits from all the extra dynamism of a live event (captured at one of Martha Argerich’s Lugano concerts).

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Rachmaninov, on the other hand, calls for more keenly sprung pianism than Lilya Zilberstein’s – Stephen Hough with Isserlis, very recently to hand, is ideal in this respect – and though the junior Capuçon brother, Gautier, spins gold out of all the long-limbed melodies, his personality is as yet muted compared to the likes of Isserlis and Yo-Yo Ma. Still, there’s more than enough on this disc to tell us that Argerich’s support for both artists is not misplaced. David Nice