Fauré, Franck, Debussy
Works for Violin & Piano
Kyung Wha Chung, violin
Kevin Kenner, piano
Warner Classics, 2018
The essence of the present album is exactly the one you could expect from a recording entitled Beau Soir (“beautiful evening”). It is a blend of romantic feelings, warm colours and mesmerizing technical refinement.
Beau Soir brings together two Violin Sonatas written by two of the most outstanding French composers who lived in the second half of the 19th century (Fauré and Franck), with the addition of four short pieces by the same composers and Debussy and finally a bonus track (Elgar’s Salut d’amour). In this way, Beau Soir presents an overview between tradition and innovation in French music. Fauré, represented here by his first major work, the Violin Sonata in A, is the symbol of the former, while the emblem of the latter is Debussy, whose break with the norms is summarized by the Préludes and – in the present case – by La Fille aux cheveux de lin.
Beau Soir: Overview
Definitely, a programme like this is more than suitable for a violinist as Kyung Wha Chung, with her sensitive insight and her emotional response to music. Together with pianist Kevin Kenner, Chung perform the French works of this collection with unmistakable, romantic nuances. Their heartfelt and committed rendition, embellished by lustrous tone and dazzling technique, is never spoiled by affectation.
Faure’s Violin Sonata
Gabriel Fauré’s Violin Sonata no. 1 in A, op. 13, is the most romantic piece of Beau Soir. The two artists characterize it with a romantic spirit that in every single movements has a different quality. It may be dreamy as in the Allegro vivo, or melancholic as in the Andante, or vivacious as in the Allegro vivo. This movement is notable especially for the interaction between violin and piano and for their equal but differently brilliant expression. The last movement (Allegro quasi presto) is the most varied in its moods, but Chung’s warm-hearted rendition and Kenner’s fluidity and stylishness effectively represent them all.
Franck’s Violin Sonata
In Franck’s Violin Sonata in A, the atmosphere is slightly different but somehow similar. The first movement (Allegro ben moderato) is remarkable for the liquid sound of the piano, which blends extremely well with the silky sound of the violin that Chung plays with abandon and warmth.
In the second movement (Allegro), violin and piano express for the first time an agitated feeling. Chung, in particular, keenly depicts this feeling with endless melancholy, which is affecting in its emotional honesty.
In the Recitativo-Fantasia, the two instruments create an atmosphere which seems still at the beginning, which is little by little replaced by feelings that, once again, Chung is able to represent with the intensity which is her own.
Finally, the Allegro poco mosso shows a new élan that the two instruments express with elegance and charm.
The short works that complete the programme of Beau Soir share with the longest ones the same commitment and abandon. Debussy’s La Fille aux cheveux de lin is remarkable for its precious nuances. In Fauré’s Berceuse, Chung’s subtle and delicate sensitivity make this work lulling. Franck’s Panis Angelicus, arranged for violin by Kenner, is amazing in the crystalline accompaniment of the piano and the finesse of the violin, able to find the sweetest nuances. In Debussy’s Beau Soir, Chung reveals both the languor of a summer evening and the painful feelings connected to it.
Finally, Elgar’s Salut d’amour is not improperly included. With this piece, Chung and Kenner end the recording with the expression of sincere élan and tenderness without mannerism.