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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A Major (1886) [29.59] Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Violin Sonata, FP119 (1943) [19.51] Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1836-1921)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor (1885) [25.28]
Carlock-Combet Duo: Guillaume Combet (violin) and Sandra Carlock (piano)
rec. Turner Sims, Southampton, England, 23-25 July 2016 SOMMSOMMCD0169 [75.42]
An imaginative and intelligent programme this, all three works performed with style, panache and polish.
For me, the most interesting piece here is the Poulenc Sonata, written in 1943 during the German occupation of France. Here Poulenc is deploring fascism. Rather than aiming his ire directly at the Nazis, he prefers an indirect assault by targeting the Spanish fascists and the 1930s Spanish Civil War and specifically eulogising the great Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, a rightly mourned fatality of that war. Poulenc’s soufflés of insouciance that abound in the concertos are not in evidence here; rather, the opening movement is earnest – passionately, fierily defiant and turbulent – but it is also not without poignancy and appropriate sentimentality. The music here is ambitious, imaginative and intelligently assembled. There is notable and frequent use of pizzicato writing that clearly suggests that for a guitar. The gorgeous, haunting elegiac middle Movement, marked Intermezzo, is aptly headed by a quotation from Lorca – ‘The guitar makes dreams weep’. The final movement, marked Presto tragico, starts with lighter material at speed before the pace becomes halting and tragic and anguished as, with a crestfallen screech (suggesting, perhaps, Lorca’s violent end?), the music comes to an abrupt full stop.
The adorable, memorable melodies that form the opening and closing movements of the deservedly popular Franck Sonata are lovingly articulated and shaped by the Carlock-Combet duo, and they are nicely contrasted with the fiery, protesting yet yearning material of the second Allegro movement and the more inward contemplation of the Recitativo-Fantasia.
Saint-Saëns’ first Violin Sonata is cast in four movements, but the first and second are joined and so, too, are the third and fourth, effectively producing a two-part work. The first two-part section moves seamlessly from the imposing dramatic opening, contrasted with the intimacy of the lovely second subject, to the beauty of the Adagio – tender, intimate and sensually winding. The first part of the second section, Allegretto Moderato, skips along to remind one of Mendelssohn and, perhaps, Kreisler, while the closing Allegro molto rushes headlong with sparkling virtuosity towards a glowing, majestic conclusion.