Ysaÿe • Lekeu • Franck

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COMPOSERS: Franck,Lekeu,Ysaye
LABELS: Cello Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Ysaÿe • Lekeu • Franck
WORKS: Sonata for Solo Cello; Rêve d’enfant (arr. York)
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello)John York (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 1009

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There have been a number of recent recordings of César Franck’s A major Violin Sonata played on the cello (Daniel Müller-Schott and Robert Kulek on EMI Debut, Sonia Wieder-Atherton and Imogen Cooper on RCA, Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich on DG among them), but this version strikes me as the most successful. Raphael Wallfisch and John York offer a near ideal blend of the fervent and meditative, a partnership of complete empathy by two virtuoso musicians (rather than musical virtuosos). Listening to Wallfisch reminded me of Piatigorsky. The booklet then reminded me that, of course, he had studied with that great master. I still think that the Sonata works better on the instrument for which it was conceived, but there is much to relish from its mellower cousin. Again, in the wonderful Lekeu Sonata (why don’t we hear it more often?), one misses the searing intensity of the violin at times, but the relish and integrity of the performances make it churlish to quibble, even if the piano is placed a tad too distantly (some detail is lost in the final Très animé). Ysaÿe’s dark-hued unaccompanied Cello Sonata (from 1924) and York’s sympathetic arrangement of his best-known piece separate the two sonatas to complete a most satisfying programme by these three Walloon composers.

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Jeremy Nicholas