The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
French Impressions. Saint-Saëns: Violin Sonata no.1 in D minor op.75. Franck: Violin Sonata in A major. Ravel: Violin Sonata in G major
Joshua Bell excels in repertoire that has always been close his heart
Monday, 26 March 2012
Joshua Bell (violin) Jeremy Denk (piano)
Saint-Saëns, Franck, Ravel
SONY CLASSICAL 88697820262
Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk have been regular duo partners for seven years now, but this is the first time they have made a CD together. Their simpatico musical relationship is clear from the outset, in the gentle, nuanced playing of Saint-Saëns’s First Sonata, as they swap themes and ideas back and forth. In the second movement Bell’s playing is quite simply gorgeous, his tone lustrous, his phrasing nicely enhanced by finger changes on repeated notes.
Franck’s Sonata has a particular meaning for Bell, whose teacher Josef Gingold was himself a pupil of Ysaÿe, for whom Franck wrote the work. His playing of the first movement is refreshingly simple and reflective, and in the second both players emphasise line rather than going for the drama. The last movement has its moments of weighty climax, but there is a feeling more often of power reined in. It’s a deeply considered and rewarding performance.
The Ravel is light and spacious, full of delicate colouration and subtle melodic contours. The ‘Blues’ second movement has a delicate refinement to it, the jazzy elements handled with elegance and grace, and the ‘Perpetuum mobile’ finale flashes past with understated virtuosity. The recorded sound is excellent, clear and balanced.
From the March 2012 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.