R Strauss, Franck: Violin Sonatas

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Franck,R Strauss
LABELS: Marquis
WORKS: R Strauss, Franck: Violin Sonatas
PERFORMER: Catherine Manoukian (violin), Xiayin Wang (piano)

E flat major is so strongly associated in the German musical psyche with massive, heroic statements – Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Emperor Piano Concerto and R Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben spring to mind in this respect – that the general tendency when performing Strauss’s E flat Violin Sonata is to emphasise its swashbuckling qualities. Not violinist Catherine Manoukian, however, who ‘sings’ Strauss’s exultant phrases with a seamless cantabile which constantly reminds one that Strauss was one of the finest composers for the voice.
In the finale’s secondary material she exchanges the rapier-like thrust of traditional readings for a cushioned sonority of beguiling sensuality. Pianist Xiayin Wang also works miracles in bringing a luminescent glow to Strauss’s virtuosic textures. 
If anything, their Franck is finer still. The opening movement’s super-heated phrases are temporally and tonally micro-inflected with radiant suppleness, and they bring a melt-in-the-mouth quality to the finale’s melodic tendresse that is unforgettable. Bravo! Julian Haylock