Michel Plasson

Franck: Piano Quintet; Violin Sonata; Symphony

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This collection of works by Cesar Franck succeeds in presenting listeners with a good selection of the composer's more popular works, including the D minor Symphony and Franck's two most popular chamber works: the F minor Piano Quintet and the Violin Sonata. While all of the performances on the album are certainly competent and acceptable, none of them truly inspire neophyte listeners to truly fall in love with Franck's music the way his own students did. The Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse's performance of the D minor Symphony is on the bland side, owning both to the dull recorded sound and occasional lack of rhythmic clarity. In the first movement, the violins are jarringly out of tune when each of the familiar descending dotted scale occurs. Intonation difficulties appear again in the album during the F minor Piano Quintet. Franck wrote the strings in unison often, which, unfortunately, for the Quatuor Muir, only highlights its difficulty in playing in tune. EMI's recorded sound again is problematic; the strings are quite bright and sterile. Jean-Philippe Collard's performance at the piano, however, is much more appealing in the quintet and again later in the violin sonata. Containing some of the most difficult passages in the accompanying literature, Collard makes easy and clear work of the diabolical second movement of the sonata. Violinist Augustin Dumay avoids problems with intonation, but sound quality is still at issue. The microphone appears far too close to the instrument, picking up entirely too much production and breathing noises and making the violin sound forced and strident. While this album is an acceptable introduction to Franck's works, listeners may wish to look elsewhere for truly masterful performances of the works heard here.

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