Saint-saens: Violin Sonata No 1; Berceuse; Triptyque / Clamagirand, Cohen

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SAINT-SAËNS Violin Sonata in d. Berceuse, Op. 38. Elégies: No. 1 in D, Op. 143; No. 2 in F, Op. 160. Sarabande et Rigaudon, Op....

SAINT-SAËNS Violin Sonata in d. Berceuse, Op. 38. Elégies: No. 1 in D, Op. 143; No. 2 in F, Op. 160. Sarabande et Rigaudon, Op. 93. Romance in D?, Op. 37. L’air de la pendule triptyque, Op. 136 Fanny Clamagirand (vn); Vanya Cohen (pn) NAXOS 8.572750 (68:01)

This CD turned out to be more than a pleasant surprise; it turned out to be a sheer delight. I wasn’t sure what to expect from two relatively young and relatively unknown (on record, at least) artists in Saint-Saëns’s frequently essayed Violin Sonata in D Minor, but the performance by Fanny Clamagirand and Vanya Cohen proved positively persuasive and more than competitive with some of the very best, among which I would count my first recording of the piece with Heifetz and Emanuel Bay on a 1950 RCA LP, along with more recent versions by Gil Shaham and Gerhard Oppitz on Deutsche Grammophon, and the very impressive young violinist Jack Liebeck with Katya Apekisheva on Quartz.

Clamagirand (b. 1984), a past graduate student of Jean-Jacques Kantorow at the Paris Conservatory, sports a robust tone that projects with a good deal of authority, yet is of an alluring sweetness. Saint-Saëns’s D-Minor Sonata, the first and by far more popular of two he wrote, can invite some coarseness in tone in a number of its rough-and-tumble passages, but Clamagirand will have none of it. She cuts through the slashing first-movement chords without slashing them, and she springs sprightly through the ricochet-like spiccato bowing in the Allegretto moderato . Vanya Cohen, born in 1980 in Monaco of Russian parents, leaves no doubt in her confident delivery of the piano part that Saint-Saëns’s swirling and whirling score is as much piano sonata as it is violin sonata. This is as brilliant and thoroughly convincing a performance of the piece as I know.

The most enchanting aspect of this album, however, is the short, salon-like pieces that fill out the disc to a generous 68 minutes. All in all, not counting the two sonatas, Saint-Saëns composed no more than six opus numbers originally scored for violin and piano, and on the present disc we have all but one of them, the Caprice brilliant in B Minor of 1859. In its place, Clamagirande and Cohen give us the Romance, op. 37, originally for flute and piano, but published with an alternate version for violin. And for extra measure, they also give us the Sarabande et Rigaudon , op. 93, originally a work for orchestra.

It would be inaccurate to say that these pieces are entirely absent from the catalog, but according to current listings, they’ve received scant attention on disc; and that’s really a shame, for there’s not one of them that’s not a real charmer. This is a most enjoyable program, and it’s one performed to the highest standards by two exceptionally talented artists. Very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 30, 2013

  • UPC: 747313275076

  • Catalog Number: 8572750

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns

  • Performer: Fanny Clamagirand, Vanya Cohen