FRANCK: Sonata in A Major; FAURÉ: Sicilienne, Op. 78, from “Pelléas and Mélisande,” Op. 78; Fantaisie, Op. 79; Sonata in A Major – Emmanuel Pahud, flute/ Eric Le Sage, piano – Skarbo DSK 4074 [Distr. by Albany], 64:38 ***1/2:
Taking nothing away from Emmanuel Pahud, whose playing is extremely refined and lovely here, I have never heard a performance of the beloved Franck Sonata on flute that makes me think the piece sounds right on this instrument. The work was written as a wedding present for great Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, and its admixture of the tender and the impassioned seems entirely appropriate to the occasion. The flute handles the tender sentiments of the first and third movements best, the passionate ones of the second least well, but even in Pahud’s fine rendition the flute seems stretched in the louder, more demonstrative pages of the opening Allegretto. Sorry, but Pahud does not change my mind about this music played on flute.
There’s more of the nature of fantasy and reverie about Fauré’s music, including the Sonata in A, which makes it a more successful candidate for transcription, I find. The gentle Sicilienne, in a transcription by Henri Busser, sounds just as idiomatic as the much flashier Fantaisie, which is one of Fauré’s only works conceived originally for flute. Pahud and Eric Le Sage, whose recordings of Schumann (on Alpha) I’ve admired, turn in charming, spirited performances. Similarly, their performance of the early (1875) Sonata, Op. 13, is almost fine enough to make me forget that the work is a violin sonata. The bubbly accents of the flute sound especially right in the effusive music of the first movement, which tumbles along like a mountain stream. The elfin quickness of the Allegro vivo scherzo sounds even righter on the flute, and Pahud and Le Sage make me believe in the tender Andante, the graciously dancing Allegro finale as well.
I can certainly understand flutists’ desire to appropriate one of the most popular violin sonatas in the repertoire. The trouble is the Franck Sonata sounds so natively violinistic that even the most committed attempts to recast it as a flute sonata come up short. Then again, maybe you’ll have a different impression after hearing Pahud’s skillful performance. At any rate, I’d be very surprised if you didn’t savor his shapely playing of the Fauré. For that, I can certainly recommend the current disc.
Brahms Violin Concerto; Schumann Symphony No. 2 – Henryk Szeryng, Carl Schuricht – Forgotten Records
Two stellar, musical personalities in live concert