Franck/Debussy/Ravel

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Franck/Debussy/Ravel
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A; Violin Sonata in G minor; Tzigane; Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré; Pièce en forme de habanera
PERFORMER: Augustin Dumay (violin), Maria João Pires (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 445 880-2 DDD
Duos don’t always have the temperament for the smouldering fires of Franck as well as the sudden whims of Debussy. Dumay and Pires join the select few. They take their time to find Debussy’s opening pulse, but they establish an individual, thoughtful freedom that ‘speaks’ sensuously and assertively. In the finale, they let unexpected passion grow from the central waltz, setting up a brilliant final flourish.

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Implicit in the initial, floated phrases of the Franck is a sense of the arduous journey to come. Intensity surges up by degrees towards the soul-torturing struggles at the sonata’s centre, and recedes before a gradual return of serenity and confidence. The gathering excitement has great subtlety and expressive power in this very ‘live’ (though session-made) performance.

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They play Ravel with delicacy and panache, but the best Ravel here comes from Tetzlaff and Andsnes, who find a generous range of character from Spanish hardness to a lyrical, irony-free blues and a playful good humour that banishes thoughts of brittleness. A fine, fluent Debussy Sonata even outshines Dumay and Pires in the sly asides of the middle movement, and Nielsen’s dour concentration is delivered with proper grit. They react well to Janácek’s abrupt mood-changes and lyrical feeling, though they don’t quite reach the operatic heights of passion.