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|Franz [Vienna] Schubert, Claude Frank|
Schubert: Works for Violin and Piano
"Whether or not the disc's producers intended it, this trio of works for violin and piano forms an interesting microcosm that pinpoints some of the compositional ideas that the composer returned to many times during his sh... more »
"Whether or not the disc's producers intended it, this trio of works for violin and piano forms an interesting microcosm that pinpoints some of the compositional ideas that the composer returned to many times during his short life (1797-1828). The relatively early A major Sonata offers a dose of Classical elegance; the grand, sweeping gestures that open the Rondo Brillant identifies with the passions of Romanticism; and the lyric Fantasy in C major provides a signpost to his lieder (the third movement, in fact, is a series of variations on his "Sei mir gegrüßt".) The father-daughter duo of Pamela and Claude Frank dispatch Schubert's music with admirable ease and an appealing aplomb--every indication is that they are having fun with these charming works. It's as if we have been invited into the Frank family living room for a casual afternoon of musicmaking. Both are accomplished soloists and chamber musicians of the highest order, and they complement each other perfectly." (9/8 rating!)-CLASSICS TODAY
Schubert for Violin and Piano
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 12/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Franz Schubert composed six important works for violin and piano. The three earliest of these are sonatinas, D.384,385, and 408, composed when Schubert was 19. Schubert's later three works are included on this budget -priced CD on Arte Nova performed by the father and daughter team of Claude Frank, piano and Pamela Frank, violin. The recording dates from 1996, but it was released in its present format in 2005. The Franks have both had outstanding recording careers, separately and together. Claude Frank has made a renowned recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas, also available on a budget-priced Arte Nova set. Pamela Frank has recorded the Mozart violin concertos with David Zinman. Together, the Franks have recorded Beethoven's complete sonatas for violin and piano in addition to this CD.
The Franks play these Schubert works with lyricism and intimacy. Father and daughter are attuned to each other. Pamela Frank plays with a lightness of touch that still responds to the passion of the music. The music and the performance offers a feeling of music-making in the privacy of the home. The three works on this CD date from just after the early sonatinas to music composed near the end of Schubert's life. In listening to these pieces I learned a great deal from Frank Ruppert's creatively idiosyncratic interpretation of Schubert in his recent book, "Franz Schubert and the Rose Cross Mystery" (2008) Ruppert tries to relate Schubert's music to mystical tradition. He also tries to relate each of Schubert's major instrumental works, including the three pieces on this CD, to the poetry that Schubert set in songs at the time that each work was composed.
The highlight of this recording is the Fantasy in C major, D934, one of the great works Schubert composed near the end of his life. As is the earlier "Wanderer" Fantasy for piano, this piece is in four interconnected movements. The work is unquestionably based upon a song which imparts its character to the entire piece: "Sei mir gegrusst", a setting of a poem by Friedrich Ruckert. This song celebrates the power of love to continue in the face of separation and distance. Ruckert's poem opens with a sense of loss:
"You are now torn from me, from my kisses
Accept my love! Accept my kiss!
You can be reached only in my dreams...
Accept my love! Accept my kiss."
It concludes with a paean to the power of love:
"The spirit of love transcends space and time.
I am with you, you are with me.
I hold you in my arms..
Accept my love. Accept my kiss."
(Translation by Frank Ruckert)
The third movement of the Fantasy is a lengthy set of variations based upon the theme of the song. The theme is stated slowly and directly at first, and then it builds in pacing and intensity to match the movement of Ruckert's poem. The variation movement, and the work as a whole, mirror the theme of the poem. The piece thus opens with a slow piano tremolo followed by an aching theme played frequently in the violin's upper register. The second movement begins in the minor key but soon moves to the major in a theme of joy. The variation set is the centerpice of the work. The finale opens with a reprise of the opening tremelo in the piano followed by a joyful conclusion, interrupted by a return of the song theme, before the piece closes in a triumphant presto. If not as well-known as some other late works, this Fantasy is Schubert at his greatest.
The CD opens with a work of a different character, the Sonata in A major, D. 574, composed in 1817, a year after the sonatinas. This four-movement sonata is a work with long, flowing jaunty melodies, characteristic of Schubert. The outer movements and the second movement scherzo are highly rhythmical and reminded me of a wandering, leisurely walk in the country. The third movement andantino is a graceful landler-like work which reminded me of the slow movement of Beethoven's "Spring" sonata for violin and piano, opus 24. In his book on Schubert to which I referred above, Ruppert relates this work to, among other songs, Schubert's contemporaneous setting of SChiller's "Elysium" D584, which includes the verse (Ruppert's translation):
"The time for sorrow is done
The joys of heaven
Drown every pain,
Heavens' life is
Eternal joy, eternal freedom
By the gentle brook in the lush meadows."
The final work on this CD is the two-movement Rondo brilliant in B minor, D. 895, which, as is the Fantasy, is a late work of Schubert. The short first movement is an introduction which opens with heavy, minor-key chords in the piano followed by a plaintive theme in the violin. The opening movement sets the stage for the lengthy (12 minutes) rondo which flows from the opening without pause. The rondo alternates flighty music of joy with somber themes that recall the introduction. Song and hope have the last word. Ruppert aptly describes this piece as the work of a "singing hero" or of a "Troubador", a figure many others have used to describe Schubert and his music.
Those who love Schubert or music for the violin and piano will enjoy this recording.
Agonizingly Beautiful Schubert
V. Stasov | 02/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The more this recording is heard, the more it reveals an absolute mastery of the music. The Franks present us with a superb and incandescent father-daughter Schubertiad. They are so united in their common musical goals that they bring a life and poignant insight into this rare Schubert that is absolutely magnificent. Playing with ultimate levels of commitment and understanding, they leave other recordings of these works in the shade. Claude and Pamela Frank are supremely gifted musicians with a common sensitivity, intelligence and aesthetic that bring Schubert's music for violin and piano to life in a uniquely beautiful, loving way.
Their rendering of the Fantasia in C D.934 is exquisitely spiritual, intensely intimate - overwhelming! There's a very real sense of being there with them as they play this music with inspiration from the inside out. It's that probing and personal, that introspective. They maintain absolute focus and continuity at all times. When they get to the Sei mir gegrust moment I feel like I'm going to pass out and my heart will burst.
Barenboim and Stern sound like automatons by comparison - phoning it in.... but with class. Their performance seems to lack soul and insight, or enthusiasm, and it feels like they really don't care very much or aren't terribly excited by the music. They are such great musicians, thought, that even their auto-pilot (this is an exaggeration) is significant.
Resembling the Franks in their comprehension and appreciation of this music, Goldberg and Lupu are closer to the honorable, committed, whole cloth performance that Schubert deserves. Koh and Uchida give their enthusiastic all to the Fantasia in C and what they do is pretty terrific - they're genuinely trying - but the supreme reading of Schubert's gorgeous, searching, sensual Fantasy is by far Claude and Pamela Frank's. They have the soul of this music, like the Budapest Quartet with Horszowski have in their Trout. The Franks shape and sing the line with such expressive delicacy and luminous lyricism - their playing of this supernal music is mind-bogglingly gorgeous. You can hear Artur Schnabel's radiant influence on their playing. Their Beethoven is also extremely beautiful, rhythmically charged with the same intelligent, rich, round, lavish sound."