Jacques Thibaud

Franck: Violin Sonata; Chausson: Concert

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It's good to have these performances of Franck's Violin Sonata and Chausson's Concert back in the catalog, but listeners should be aware that the recordings date from 1928 and 1931, and even with Opus Kura's fine remastering, the sound is antiquated: surface noise vies with musical signal in passages quieter than mezzo forte, and there is little to no sense of presence. The performances by violinist Jacques Thibaud and pianist Alfred Cortot reflect aesthetics of an earlier era that may not please all modern audiences, but it could be argued that in their own individualistic way, these are possibly the most idiomatic and persuasive performances of these late Romantic French masterpieces ever recorded. Thibaud uses his penetrating tone to bore deep into the rhapsodic Fantasia of Franck's Sonata and the tragic Grave from Chausson's Concert. His tone is extremely varied -- plangent in Franck's opening Allegretto, yet impassioned in his closing Allegro, sinewy in Chausson's Sicilienne, but frisky in his Finale -- and the effect is more like listening to a voice than an instrument. Thibaud seems to be completely under the skin of the music, and he expresses its ebbs and flows and its intimacies and ecstasies with a sincerity that comes straight from the heart. Although Cortot's technique is spotty when judged by current standards, the enormous musicality that informs his interpretations is awesome. These performances may not be to the taste of all audiences, but their historical significance and idiomatic authenticity strongly argue for listeners at least giving them a try.

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