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Jennifer Pike, an exclusive Chandos artist and one of the brightest up-and-coming stars on the musical scene today, named BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2002, here performs some of the greatest violin music in the repertoire. On her first recital recording for Chandos, she partners the distinguished pianist Martin Roscoe, and together they superbly capture the Gaelic qualities of the violin sonatas by Franck, Debussy, and Ravel.
The Violin Sonata in A by César Franck was written in 1886 as a wedding present for the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Sensuous, yet spiritual and serene, this is a triumphant example of cyclic form in four movements: a languid Allegretto, a fiery Allegro, a Recitativo-Fantasia recalling earlier themes, and a gentle finale which is one of the finest examples of a canon written after Bach. The 1886 premiere took place in an art gallery in Brussels, in a room so dark that Ysaÿe was forced to play the sonata largely from memory.
Debussy’s Violin Sonata was the third and last of a projected set of six sonatas for various instruments that Debussy embarked on in 1915, three years before his death. This work is very different from those of Franck and Ravel in terms of the freedom and fantasy that are expressed in its ideas and structure. It may have been inspired by a gypsy fiddler that Debussy heard on a visit to Budapest, indeed the violin writing in the central movement incorporates a number of ‘gypsy’ traits: trills, slides, and sudden bursts of excitement. This movement presents seventeen different speed indications in a mere six pages, which highlights Debussy’s strong desire to write music that ‘sounds as if it’s not written down’.
The Violin Sonata was Ravel’s final chamber work, combining the influence of blues with an austere beauty. In the late 1890s, the young Ravel had written one movement of a violin sonata, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that he completed the work. He worked on the basic premise that the two instruments, violin and piano, being incompatible, should be made as independent from each other as possible, without risking the collapse of the structure. The deliberate lack of relationship between the instruments tested the ears of the critics, and when Ravel took the sonata on his North American tour in 1928, they did not approve – though the work was very well received by its audiences!
Claude Debussy: Violin Sonata in G minor
I. Allegro vivo
II. Intermede: Fantastique et leger
III. Finale: Tres anime
Maurice Ravel: Violin Sonata in G major
I. Allegretto - Andante - Rallentando
II. Blues: Moderato
III. Perpetuum mobile: Allegretto
Cesar Franck: Violin Sonata in A major, M. 8
I. Allegretto ben moderato
II. Allegro - Quasi lento - Allegro - Poco piu lento
III. Recitativo - Fantasia : Ben moderato - Molto lento - Ben moderato - — - Moderato - Molto lento e mesto
IV. Allegretto poco mosso
“Pike's playing is muscular, her intonation immaculate. She plays a 1708 Goffriller, which has a pleasantly dark sound when required. She discovers the right mix of fantasy and nostalgia in Debussy's late Sonata...this is a most impressive debut recital disc, presenting a fully fledged artist who has much to communicate through her expressive playing.”
“Pike finds much to relish in [the three sonatas], not only in her beautiful singing tone, but also in moments of hushed mystery, all captured in an admirably clear recording that slightly over-favours the violin. Debussy's multiple gear-changes, Ravel's jazz-inflected musings and Franck's intense emotions are negotiated with ease.”
30th April 2011
“Pike never over-eggs the gypsy element in Debussy, the blues in Ravel or the Germanic influence in Franck: she simply makes sure they inhabit their distinctive idiom...And yet, thanks to her thoughtful, lightly worn musicianship and Martin Roscoe’s sensitive pianism, each piece retains its unmistakably Gallic flavour.”
“The most striking aspect of this challenging recital is Jennifer Pike's fearless exploration of the violin's lower dynamic range. French music is all about colour and here she reveals radiant hues and patinas that most players leave hidden under layers of interpretative accretion...Pike's dazzling interpretative flair and exemplary technique combine to create one of the most outstanding debut violin albums of recent years.”
12th May 2011
“thoroughly idiomatic, glistening performances of three core French violin sonatas. This is playing that brims with character, bringing a smoky seductiveness to the finale of the Debussy. Franck’s A-major sonata is given with plenty of passion tempered by winning finesse in dynamics and tonal shading.”
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