Franck, Schumann, Brahms

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Franck,Schumann
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A (arr. cello)
PERFORMER: Pieter Wispelwey (cello), Paolo Giacometti (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 18602
The persuasive Pieter Wispelwey makes a better case than some have done for playing Franck’s Violin Sonata on the cello. Could it be otherwise, from a musician possessed of such a formidable emotional range and beguilingly rich tone? Well, perhaps it could, as Wispelwey later demonstrates with Brahms. But his Franck is by any standards a beautiful reading – building from a caressing opening through the dramatic vicissitudes of the Allegro second movement to close in poised tranquillity. Throughout, Paolo Giacometti proves himself an ideal duo partner, unobtrusively inventive and neither diffident nor over-assertive.

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An interlude of Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro offers a conveniently concise summary of the protean talents of both players, before the couple get round to Brahms’s First Violin Sonata. This turns out to be a less convincing experience than the Franck Sonata. Whether or not one believes that the character of the music is altered by the shift from the G major of the original to the more acclamatory key of D major, Wispelwey and Giacometti’s reading (particularly in an overwrought first movement) is markedly more urgent and propulsive than most performances. The understated tenderness at the core of this essentially benign work is sometimes invisible beneath an almost aggressive stridency, and I am not sure the novelty of such an approach compensates for what is lost. However, anyone seeking Franck on the cello should come here first. For Brahms, I would be inclined to stick with a glowing performance by the young Anne-Sophie Mutter. Christopher Wood