Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G minor (1917) [14:30]
Beau Soir (c.1880) arranged Jascha Heifetz (1935) [3:06]
César FRANCK (1811-1886)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [28:33]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor Op.75 (1885) [22:33]
Maria Bachmann (violin)
Adam Neiman (piano)
rec. December 2011, Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center, SUNY
College at Purchase
BRIDGE 9394 [68:49]
Both Maria Bachmann and Adam Neiman are youthful
but experienced American musicians whose reputations largely precede
them. I’m not sure how long, if at all, they have performed as
a duo but they make a fine ensemble. They are active recording artists,
though of the two I’ve thus far only heard discs by Bachmann.
They’ve chosen a Franco-Belgian programme without any surprises.
To the three major sonatas they add Heifetz’s arrangement of Beau
Soir, which is delightfully traversed albeit for my own tastes Bachmann
vibrates just a little too much in her opening statements. I find the
sonata performances altogether more problematic but I appreciate that
this is because I find that recitals of this work that are insufficiently
lithe fail to convince me structurally. Bachmann and Neiman take great
care over phraseology and dynamics but their too-elastic take brings
concern. Firstly, momentum in the first movement fails to re-establish
itself after such fluctuations; second, there is over-expressive phrasing
in certain key places. The slow movement is technically well done but
it lacks a real sense of fantasy and lightness. It is also too knowing,
and the finale too discursive. I appreciate that performers are under
no obligation to base their performances on those of past masters-indeed
it would be foolish and inartistic to suggest that they do so. However
there is a good reason why fiddlers such as Alfred Dubois, Jacques Thibaud,
Zino Francescatti and Heifetz all took almost exactly the same sort
of tempo (though with vastly different expressive pointing) in this
work. Architectural tightness generates the necessary expressive heightening.
If you unstitch that, the music’s cloth unravels all too easily.
Franck’s sonata is more admissible of varying latitudes. The Bachmann-Neiman
reading is a thoughtful, sensitive and in many ways good one, not least
in revealing how a slightly small-scaled performance can nevertheless
find its way through the sonata’s manifold thickets. Thus they
don’t charge through the second movement Allegro in a way
that other duos can do, thereby spiking their guns before the sonata
is half way over. For this duo their most sweeping and dynamic playing
is, rightly, reserved for the finale though it relaxes when and where
necessary, and most convincingly.
The most successful performance is that of Saint-Saëns’s
D minor sonata where a balance between Heifetzian dynamism and patrician
Gallic reserve maintains a good eyrie on the music. That said, she aligns
herself very much with Heifetz’s two recordings at least until
the finale, where she resists his level of Allegro molto in favour
of something just a little more clement. The slow movement is highly
effective in this performance and the finale, too, fizzes with commitment
but, vitally, with digital clarity, something the clear recording quality
Admirers of these two musicians can acquire this disc without any concerns.
I remain very much more unconvinced by some interpretative decisions
but I will say that those decisions have been tenaciously and musically
upheld in performances that remain consistent and strongly argued.