Messiaen, Saint-Sa‘ns, Milhaud, Ravel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen,Milhaud,Ravel,Saint-Sa‘ns
LABELS: Koch
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: French Violin Sonatas
WORKS: Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano; Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata in G
PERFORMER: Isabelle van Keulen (violin) Ronald Brautigam (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6416-2
This is an immensely enjoyable and thought-provoking programme. Each of the composers here occupies their own respective sound-world, reflecting a distinct creative outlook. The jazz-influenced Ravel Sonata is the antithesis of Messiaen’s compositional aesthetic, while even the youthful Milhaud is worlds away from the Austro-Germanic traits which pervade the otherwise quintessentially French music of Saint-Saëns. Despite such striking differences, a cohesive Gallic temperament is tangible throughout this splendid quasi-concert.

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Isabelle van Keulen and Ronald Brautigam reinforce this sense of coherence by their obvious grasp of the architecture both of the individual works and their position within the recital as a whole.

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Certain passages in the first movement of the Saint-Saëns Sonata and the early variations of the Messiaen feel rather precarious, and in an ideal world greater exaggeration would be applied to the more extrovert gestures of the latter. The dominating impressions, though, are of deftly-paced drama and exquisite poetry. The concluding part of the Saint-Saëns is permeated by pre-echoes of the better-known Franck Sonata (written a year later in 1886), and, under van Keulen’s fingers, generates at least as much excitement. Such advocacy certainly outweighs any quibbles. Christopher Dingle