Franck, Vieuxtemps: Violin Sonata in A (transcr. viola)

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COMPOSERS: Franck,Vieuxtemps
LABELS: Simax
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A (transcr. viola)
PERFORMER: Lars Anders Tomter (viola); Håvard Gimse (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1126
Henry Vieuxtemps is one of those unfortunate composers whose name is known better than his music. During his lifetime he was best known as a travelling violin virtuoso, while he was also a renowned teacher whose pupils included Eugène Ysaÿe. Nonetheless, in an output dominated by violin works, there are three pieces for viola: a charming sonata, a soulful Élégie and an unaccompanied Capriccio. The latter is patently influenced by Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin and, along with the Élégie, draws impassioned playing from Lars Anders Tomter. While his performances make a good case for giving these well-crafted works more frequent airings, there is little evidence for promoting Vieuxtemps above the third rank of composers.

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This view is only reinforced by hearing the A major Sonata by Vieuxtemps’s compatriot and near-contemporary César Franck in such close proximity. This work, which was premiered and championed by Ysaÿe, may sound more lugubrious than wistful when heard on the viola, but the fact that Franck authorised a version for cello suggests that he would have countenanced this transcription. While lacking the searing intensity of the best accounts of the original version, Tomter gives a thoughtful reading which finds much beauty. Christopher Dingle