Composers: Vierne, Franck, Ysaÿe
Compositions: Music for violin and piano
Performers: Alina Ibragimova v, Cédric Tiberghien
Catalogue Number: Hyperion CDA68204

This is a journey into the hothouse of late romantic chamber music, the prize display an emblem of passionate musical expression, César Franck’s Violin Sonata – a wedding present for another composer featured, Eugène Ysaÿe.

You can imagine Franck’s Sonata played in a richly upholstered salon in a more gilded age. The pieces around it too are fascinating souvenirs of a richly coloured aesthetic, by composers who were violinists themselves. Ysaÿe charts a tragic trajectory in his Poème Élégiaque, inspired by the tomb scene in Romeo and Juliet. Louis Vierne was a Franck pupil, but his engaging Sonata shows strong influences of Liszt and Saint-Saëns. It’s a terrific, big-hearted piece.

If you’ve followed Ibragimova’s and Tiberghien’s Mozart sonata series for Hyperion, you’ll know what elegant musicians they are, but “elegant” is perhaps a danger word here. Everything emerges as scrupulously prepared and beautifully played, but I would have sacrificed a little of that “not a hair out of place” quality for more abandon and visceral excitement. Take the Allegro of the Franck – at this point in Sarah Chang’s recording with Lars Vogt (Warner) you’re eavesdropping on a passionate encounter, whereas here we have not past the point at which “speaking glances” have been exchanged. It seems to me that the Vierne, too, wants more ardour. The Ysaÿe, on the other hand, is palpably alive to every nuance in the music and is much more involving.

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