DVORAK: Sonatina Op. 100 for Violin and Piano; POULENC: Sonata for Flute and Piano; GRIEG: Sonata Op. 8 in F Major for Violin – Marie-Josée Simard, vibraphone/Marie Fabi, piano – XXI-21 Productions XXI-CD 2 1632 [Distr. by Albany] *1/2:
OK, I know that adaptation and arrangement of music originally written for a certain combination of instruments is a time-honored practice. Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi routinely and indefatigably engaged in the practice with their own compositions, and then there are gems that wouldn’t otherwise be heard if not for the ministrations of the musical arranger: take, for example Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata or Haydn’s concerti for lira organizzata. But vibraphone? In Dvorak?
Unfortunately, Marie-Josée Simard’s arrangements sound about as you’d expect them to sound: unintentionally comical. On the other hand, this isn’t a CD you’d play again for your own delectation, if that’s the right word. The utterly charming Dvorak Sonatina, written for the composer’s own children to play, makes the worst impression here. Charm is nowhere to be found, and as if Simard can’t even convince her own partner of the merit of the project, this is the poorest performance of all, too, the piano part played without warmth or feeling.
Actually, the Poulenc is the most credible, or perhaps least incredible offering here, thanks to the French composer’s own native cheekiness and insouciance. And here and there the vibraphone matches the fluttery timbre of the flute, at least as Poulenc wrote for it. With the Grieg, we’re firmly back in the serious-minded nineteenth century again and back in deep water, although here I have to admire the sheer virtuosity of the performance, including Marie Fabi’s deft pianism. I’d like to hear her tackle this sonata with a violinist sometime. But I’ve heard enough vibraphone to last me a while, thanks.
– Lee Passarella