German violin virtuosa Isabelle Faust and Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov have released an extensive list of recordings of chamber works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Shostakovich and Weber. This, their most recent release, sees them dabbling in French repertoire, with two works by French romantics César Franck and Ernest Chausson.
Franck and Chausson really are a perfect complement to each other. Both composers inject the same kind of lyricism and harmonic drama into their music, Chausson lying somewhere between Franck and Debussy in terms of style. This recent recording sees the pairing of Franck’s classic Violin Sonata with Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, Op. 21. The Chausson is less well known than the Franck, but is nonetheless a wonderful example of chamber music at its most intimate and dynamic, and sees Faust and Melnikov joined by the Salagon Quartet.
Faust’s signature silky, gauze-like tone colour is on fine display throughout the recording, though particularly in the Franck’s fragile third movement, and Melnikov’s light touch on the c.1885 Érard piano lends a sense of period authenticity to the performance. The reading of the Franck Sonata captures all of its dreaminess and nonchalance, balanced nicely by more rugged displays in the two faster movements, especially the ecstatic rush at the work’s conclusion.
The performance of the Chausson Concert by the whole ensemble is characterful and nuanced, and is particularly pleasurable for Melnikov’s pianism. The opening movement is bold and robust, and is balanced nicely by the lilting Sicilienne. The sextet achieves a real dramatic intensity in the third movement, which is then washed away by the upbeat and rhythmically fresh finale.