Franck/Saint-Saens/Messiaen

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COMPOSERS: Franck/Saint-Saens/Messiaen
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin), Marina Gusak-Grin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9109 DDD
No last-minute frisson of ecstatic ardour in the concluding Messiaen work could ever be expected to save the day here! Even the epic proportions of the César Franck Sonata seem sadly minimised in the hands of Lydia Mordkovitch and Marina Gusak-Grin. Though the opening movement fares promisingly enough, Gusak-Grin’s gutless response to Mordkovitch’s urgency in the Allegro causes the music to flounder at a perilously early stage, regardless of a convincing basic tempo. Mordkovitch, too, lopes flaccidly through the Recitativo, which fails to emerge as the axis point of the sonata as a whole. Franck underpins the cogency of the work with cyclic reminiscences of earlier material in the Finale, but the mawkishly reticent Gusak-Grin ensures that there is little sense of cathartic resolution.

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Lydia Mordkovitch reveals an impulsive tenacity in her efficient, rich-toned account of the First Sonata by Saint-Saëns, dating from 1875. Differences of scale apart, this work needs as much venturesome pianistic support as the Franck, and Marina Gusak-Grin is simply no match for her more responsive partner. Their recital suddenly takes flight right at the close, in a burnished and penetrating reading of Messiaen’s rarely performed Theme and Variations for violin and piano; the highlight of an unmemorable release. Michael Jameson