The Franchomme Project: Newly discovered works by Auguste Franchomme
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Ballade No 2, op. 38: Andantino; (transcribed for 4 cellos by Louise Dubin [2:21]
Auguste FRANCHOMME (1808-1884)
Caprice pour le Violoncelle sur Preciosa de Weber, op. 24, No. 2, with piano. [5:43]
Nocturne, op. 15, No. 1, for two cellos. [4:47]
Nocturne, op 14, No. 1, for two cellos. [4:29]
From Dix Mélodies, op 17, No. 6: La Norma de Bellini, arr. for cello and piano [5:32]
Caprice, op. 7, No. 1, for two cellos [2:08]
Prelude, op. 28, No. 9, arr. for four cellos. [1:41]
Caprice, op. 7, No. 9 for two cellos [3:56]
Solo pour le Violoncelle, op. 18, No. 3 [6:58]
Marche funèbre , op. 35, arr. for 4 cellos [7:43]
Mazurka, op. 33, No. 3, arr. for cello and piano [2:48]
Nocturne, op. 15, No 2 for 2 cellos [4:34]
Nocturne, op. 15, No. 3 for 2 cellos [5:24]
Polonaise brillante précédée d’une introduction, op. 3 [9:02]
Louise Dubin, Julia Bruskin, Saeunn Thorsteindóttir, Katherine Cherbas (cellos);
Hélène Jeanney, Andrea Lam (piano)
rec. Gene and Shelley Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Union, NJ, Autumn 2012-Spring 2014
DELOS DE3469 [67:07]

This CD is the brainchild of cellist Louise Dubin, who discovered previously unknown works by the famous virtuoso Auguste Franchomme. In addition, she arranged music for four cellos, hired the three other cellists, wrote the programme notes and performed the lion’s share of the music on this disc. It is a brilliant achievement in every aspect.

Franchomme (1808-1884) was the most celebrated virtuoso cellist in France of the period from roughly 1830 to 1880. Like most star instrumentalists of his day, he wrote a large body of music for his instrument, and provided generations of students with wonderful cello studies which are still in use today. If he is at all known to the public, it is for his close friendship with Frédéric Chopin. The two men co-authored the Grand Duo Concertante sur “Robert le Diable” de Meyerbeer and later it was for Franchomme that Chopin wrote his masterful Sonata, op. 65. Franchomme also transcribed a large amount of the violin literature for the cello, including all ten of Beethoven’s Sonatas for violin and piano, published in 1867. His version of the “Kreutzer” Sonata is monumentally challenging since he hardly allows for any limitations of the cello, basically altering almost nothing from the famously difficult violin part. If he was able to perform this himself, he must have been a formidable cellist indeed.

Given this close association with Chopin, Ms. Dubin arranged two works of Chopin’s for 4 cellos and offers as a finale the Polonaise Brillante, op. 3, also written for Franchomme. This serves to offer a delightful balance between the two composers. In general I would say that Franchomme’s music suffers from a lack of true inspiration, especially when compared to the master. Curiously, he does not follow in Chopin’s footsteps regarding the latter’s revolutionary harmonic writing. The cellist’s music is, rather, a throwback to an earlier age more akin to that of Mendelssohn and Weber. The cello writing is similar to his nearly exact contemporary, Adrian-Francois Servais. The music’s main purpose is not to scale the heights but rather to please the ear and show the public what could be accomplished on the instrument.

Dubin exhibits total mastery of her instrument -her intonation is well-nigh perfect and her tone is always lovely and warm. The other three cellists are equally fine. They are sympathetic collaborators, showing much sensitivity in their ensemble work and match perfectly Dubin’s sweet cello sound.

Samuel Magill

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf
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