FRANK / GRIEG: Violin Sonatas
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Cesar Franck (1822 -1890)
Sonata in A Major
Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907)
Sonata in C Minor, Op. 45
Lyric Pieces / Lyrische St??cke (arr. Vladimir Godar)
The career of Cesar Franck is a curious one. Destined by his father for theconcert-platform as a virtuoso pianist, he achieved instead a position ofinfluence among his own circle in Paris as a composer and organist, distrustedand never fully accepted by the wider musical establishment.
Franck was born in Belgium, but moved to Paris as a student, at theinsistence of his father. He held various positions in churches in Paris and in1872 became organist at the Conservatoire. The appointment was an unexpectedone, since Franck was unskilled in musical politics, normally an essentialability. His openness led, in fact, to further unpopularity, as his organstudents profited from his ability as a composer, to the resentment of theConservatoire professors of composition.
Franck's single violin sonata was written in 1886, immediately before hisSymphony and the String Quartet. It resembles the larger works of Franck in thethematic connection between its movements and in its highly original use oftraditional forms. It was described by Franck's pupil Vincent d'Indy as"the first and purest model of the cyclic treatment of themes in the formof an instrumental sonata". The sonata was given to the Belgian violinistEug?¿ne Ysa??e at the latter's wedding in September of the year of itscomposition and was first performed by him in Brussels.
The first movement of the sonata, with its characteristic opening theme,serves as little more than an introduction to the weightier second movement,itself one of impassioned intensity preceding a brief interruption of recitativeand are turn to the earlier mood, the thematic material always suggesting theintervals used in the initial bars of the first movement.
The third movement, with the unusual title Recitativo - Fantasia,starts, after introductory piano chords recalling the opening of the sonata,with rhetorical statements from the violin. Of this there is an imaginativedevelopment, against a chromatically descending bass, before the appearance ofthe main theme of the movement.
A canon between piano and violin opens the finale in almost pastoral style.
The theme appears in various tonalities, with consequent variations inintensity, in a movement that provides a fitting climax to a sonata that itselfmakes considerable demands on both violinist and pianist.
The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was the great-grandson of a Scottishlobster-exporter, an emigrant from Scotland after the battle of Culloden and thefinal defeat of the Stuart heirs to the thrones of England and Scotland. Hisfather was British consul in Bergen and his mother an amateur pianist of someability. Through her Grieg was able to make early progress on the sameinstrument, as well as to benefit from the cultural environment provided by hisfamily.
It was through the encouragement of the violinist Ole Bull, a visitor to theGrieg Family estate, that Grieg was sent abroad to Leipzig to study music. InGermany he did not find everything immediately to his taste, with a pianoteacher wedded to a repertoire of Czerny and Clementi and composition teachersof similar outlook. Later, however, he was able to study with Wenzel, a friendof Schumann, and this was to have a profound effect on his musical thought.
After Leipzig Grieg spent some time in the Danish capital Copenhagen,surroundings familiar enough to one brought up in a prosperous Norwegian familyof the period, dominated as middle-class Norwegian society was by Danishculture. It was not long, however, before he became fascinated with the peasantart of his native country, largely through the influence of Ole Bull and hisyounger friend Rikard Nordraak. It was with this essentially Norwegian culturethat Grieg continued to be associated for the next forty years.
The third of Grieg's three violin sonatas, in C minor, was completed in 1867,when Grieg was at the height of his fame. The first movement, one of excitingintensity, is followed by a second in G major, introduced by the piano with allthat wonderfully coloured harmony that characterizes the composer. The simplefolk-melody serves as a frame-work for a more energetic middle section in Eminor. The finale offers similar variety and excitement, with its delicateopening theme leading to episodes of contrasting key and mood and to a rapidfinal climax.
Grieg published some ten collections of Lyric Pieces for piano duringhis career, the first volume in 1867 and the last in 1901. These delicateminiatures offer a vignette of Grieg's particular abilities as a composer, hissubtle handling of harmonic colour and winning gift of melody. The Arietta opensthe first collection and is here followed by a transcription of Voglein (LittleBird) from the third volume of Lyric pieces, published in 1886. The Berceuse
is taken from the second book, published two years earlier, and the Cradle Songfrom the ninth, published in 1898. Remembrances aptly concludes the tenth set ofpieces.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studying with herfather, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of Shinichi Suzuki, thecreator of the famous Suzuki Method of violin teaching for children.
Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and to theJuilliard School in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in theworld today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz KreislerEdition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto byDu Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previouslyunrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui,Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's FourSeasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethovenand the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. He started to learnthe piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy ofMusic under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter onhis graduation in 1974. Jand6 has won a number of piano competitions in Hungaryand abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and afirst prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International PianoCompetition in 1977. In addition to his many appearances in Hungary, he hasplayed widely abroad in Eastern and Western Europe, in Canada and in Japan. Heis currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart's piano concertos forNaxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg andSchumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and PaganiniRhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.