Franck, Vieuxtemps: Sonata in A major; Capriccio in C minor; Elégie, Op. 30; Sonata in B flat major, Op. 36

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COMPOSERS: Franck,Vieuxtemps
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sonata in A major; Capriccio in C minor; Elégie, Op. 30; Sonata in B flat major, Op. 36
PERFORMER: Nobuko Imai (viola); Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 8873 DDD
An imaginative pairing of the familiar and the unfamiliar – although even the well known Franck Violin Sonata emerges in a new light in this arrangement for viola. The Vieuxtemps pieces are telling evidence for the expressive range and power of the viola as a solo instrument; we accept this as a matter of course, but it was revolutionary in the mid-19th century.

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Franck’s Sonata of 1886 became a touchstone for French chamber music, and it translates well here to the viola. The reflective passages gain from the more sombre tone of the instrument; only when the music is at its most athletic in the upper registers is there some roughness. If you favour the alto above the soprano, this radiant performance will give much pleasure,

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Franck’s Belgian contemporary, Vieuxtemps, was a composer and a virtuoso violinist; he also owned a fine viola and obviously cared enough for the instrument to write these three pieces: a Capriccio (unaccompanied, in the style of JS Bach), and an impressive Sonata dating from 1863. The music could hardly have more persuasive advocates than Nobuko Imai and Roger Vignoles. Highly recommended. Edward Blakeman