Franck: Violin Sonata; Prokofiev: Violin Sonata Op. 94a

Ruggiero Ricci / Martha Argerich

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Franck: Violin Sonata; Prokofiev: Violin Sonata Op. 94a Review

by James Leonard

Being New Yorkers, they all knew better, but still they couldn't help themselves. After the Allegro of Franck's sonata played by Ruggiero Ricci and Martha Argerich at their October 1979 Carnegie Hall recital, the audience just had to applaud wildly. What else could they do? As attested by this recording of the recital, it was no doubt the single most overwhelmingly virtuosic performance of the movement that any of them had ever heard. Both Ricci and Argerich were amazingly flamboyant and immensely compelling soloists, and in their performance, they pushed, prodded, and provoked each other into ever more recklessly daring playing. By the end of the Franck sonata's closing Allegretto con mosso, Ricci was tearing into the strings and Argerich was slamming away on the keyboard, and although both blew some notes -- Ricci was surprisingly out of tune toward the end -- none of that mattered in the face of their unstoppable fury. The music came off a little bruised but the performance remains far and away the most passionate ever recorded. The Prokofiev sonata that follows is nearly as exalted in tone but far more lyrical in temperament. Ricci's sweetness matched Argerich's tenderness and their ensemble was wonderfully intimate in its soulful lyricism. Ricci's three solo encores -- Ysaÿe's Ballade, Paganini's "God Save the King" Variations, and Bach's ever-popular Gavotte from the E major Partita -- were each astoundingly virtuosic. But good as they are, nothing can compare with Ricci and Argerich's performance of the Allegro of Franck's sonata. Etcetera's sound is clean enough but rough around the edges.

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