In their most recent recorded collaboration, Tasmin Little and Piers Lane deliver some of the finest French examples from the violin and piano repertoire, with a French-inspired Pole thrown in for good measure.
César Franck’s Violin Sonata is a mainstay of the repertoire, exhibiting the composer’s preference for cyclic form – the use of thematic material across all movements. What’s special about the Sonata is that Franck’s compositional technicalities never eclipse the music’s dramatic and communicative nature.
Little’s rendering of the opening Allegretto is perfection, with gorgeously light and silky bow strokes balanced with a more robust, powerful tone as the music approaches its climactic goals. Lane’s touch is sensitive, and matches Little’s colour range perfectly. The pair lets loose in the second and final movements, but Little’s recitativo in the third movement makes for a real moment of focus in the performance, and is probably the highlight.
The Romance in B Flat by Gabriel Fauré is a beautiful divertissement in this recording. Little conjures the most stunning of reveries with this lyrical gem, offering a limpid tone that invokes a soothing calm, even during the more technically fraught passages. Lane’s playing is similarly crystal clear, and beautifully tender.
Szymanowski appears to be getting more airtime these days, and thank goodness, because the Polish composer’s music does deserve more hearings. Szymanowski, like Franck, was a fantastic craftsman with a keen ear for the dramatic. His Violin Sonata is a heavier work than Franck’s, with its two outer movements calling for rich, muscular tone production in the violin part, which Little delivers. The middle movement is a serene, gentle, dreamy Andantino tranquillo e dolce, the opening of which is one of the highlights of Little and Lane’s performance.
The Sonata is followed by two more works by Szymanowski. The first is a Romance that’s imbued with a rich lyricism, and which works towards a magnificent climax. But the best is saved for last, with a Notturno and Tarantella, music of 1915 and a more mature Szymanowski. The strange, exotic music of the Notturno, with its silky melodies and harmonies on open fifths, is a real treat, and the bustling Tarantella, a fantastic showstopper.