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ClassicsOnline Home » FRANCK / GRIEG: Violin Sonatas
"thoroughly enjoyable and very recommendable"
"The Violin Sonatas of Cesar Franck and Edvard Grieg are delightful chamber works and are sensitively played by Takako Nishizaki and pianist Jenó Jando."
César Franck (1822 -1890)
Sonata in A Major
Edvard Grieg (1843 - 1907)
Sonata in C Minor, Op. 45
Lyric Pieces / Lyrische Stücke (arr. Vladimir Godar)
The career of Cesar Franck is a curious one. Destined by his father for the
concert-platform as a virtuoso pianist, he achieved instead a position of
influence among his own circle in Paris as a composer and organist, distrusted
and never fully accepted by the wider musical establishment.
Franck was born in Belgium, but moved to Paris as a student, at the
insistence of his father. He held various positions in churches in Paris and in
1872 became organist at the Conservatoire. The appointment was an unexpected
one, since Franck was unskilled in musical politics, normally an essential
ability. His openness led, in fact, to further unpopularity, as his organ
students profited from his ability as a composer, to the resentment of the
Conservatoire professors of composition.
Franck's single violin sonata was written in 1886, immediately before his
Symphony and the String Quartet. It resembles the larger works of Franck in the
thematic connection between its movements and in its highly original use of
traditional 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 form
of an instrumental sonata". The sonata was given to the Belgian violinist
Eugène Ysaÿe at the latter's wedding in September of the year of its
composition 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 recitative
and are turn to the earlier mood, the thematic material always suggesting the
intervals 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 imaginative
development, against a chromatically descending bass, before the appearance of
the 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 in
intensity, in a movement that provides a fitting climax to a sonata that itself
makes considerable demands on both violinist and pianist.
The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was the great-grandson of a Scottish
lobster-exporter, an emigrant from Scotland after the battle of Culloden and the
final defeat of the Stuart heirs to the thrones of England and Scotland. His
father was British consul in Bergen and his mother an amateur pianist of some
ability. Through her Grieg was able to make early progress on the same
instrument, as well as to benefit from the cultural environment provided by his
It was through the encouragement of the violinist Ole Bull, a visitor to the
Grieg Family estate, that Grieg was sent abroad to Leipzig to study music. In
Germany he did not find everything immediately to his taste, with a piano
teacher wedded to a repertoire of Czerny and Clementi and composition teachers
of similar outlook. Later, however, he was able to study with Wenzel, a friend
of 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 family
of the period, dominated as middle-class Norwegian society was by Danish
culture. It was not long, however, before he became fascinated with the peasant
art of his native country, largely through the influence of Ole Bull and his
younger friend Rikard Nordraak. It was with this essentially Norwegian culture
that 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 exciting
intensity, is followed by a second in G major, introduced by the piano with all
that wonderfully coloured harmony that characterizes the composer. The simple
folk-melody serves as a frame-work for a more energetic middle section in E
minor. The finale offers similar variety and excitement, with its delicate
opening theme leading to episodes of contrasting key and mood and to a rapid
Grieg published some ten collections of Lyric Pieces for piano during
his career, the first volume in 1867 and the last in 1901. These delicate
miniatures offer a vignette of Grieg's particular abilities as a composer, his
subtle handling of harmonic colour and winning gift of melody. The Arietta opens
the first collection and is here followed by a transcription of Vöglein (Little
Bird) 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 Song
from the ninth, published in 1898. Remembrances aptly concludes the tenth set of
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studying with her
father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of Shinichi Suzuki, the
creator of the famous Suzuki Method of violin teaching for children.
Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and to the
Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the
world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler
Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by
Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously
unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui,
Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi’s Four
Seasons, Mozart’s Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven
and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
Jeno Jandó was born at Pécs, in south Hungary, in 1952. He started to learn
the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of
Music under Katalin Nemes and Pál Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on
his graduation in 1974. Jand6 has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary
and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a
first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano
Competition in 1977. In addition to his many appearances in Hungary, he has
played widely abroad in Eastern and Western Europe, in Canada and in Japan. He
is currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart’s piano concertos for
Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and
Schumann as well as Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto and Paganini
Rhapsody and Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas.
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FRANCK / GRIEG: Violin Sonatas