The Missa Ave Maris Stella, with its lyrically reverential mood and long duo and trio passages, is among Josquin Desprez's most popular masses, and the listener can choose from among recordings by top Renaissance a cappella vocal groups. This one by the Netherlands ensemble Cappella Pratensis presents itself as hyperauthentic. Backed by a booklet essay from Josquin specialist Jennifer Bloxam, the group purports to re-create the practices, discourse, and atmosphere that would have attended a performance of the mass in the papal chapel around the year 1500.
The violin and piano sonatas of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel draw on foreign idioms: gypsy music in Debussy's case and African-American blues in Ravel's. But they remain completely French works, spiced with something exotic, and British violinist Jennifer Pike forges interpretations that keep this in mind. Start with the "Blues" slow movement of the Ravel Violin Sonata in G major: Pike and her accompanist, Martin Roscoe, avoid exaggerating the bluesy qualities of the music and instead emphasize the odd, almost tense disconnection between violin and piano that, combined with the languid blues melodies, gives this piece its special piquancy.
The most brilliant of Belgian composer César Franck's compositions were written during the final decade of his life; the Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, the famous Violin Sonata, the D major String Quartet, and, perhaps most important, the Symphony in D minor are all the products of a single, remarkable five-year period. The Symphony, by no means an immediate success with critics or audiences, has nevertheless become so fused with the popular image of César Franck that it is nearly impossible to think of him without also thinking of this 40-minute orchestral juggernaut.
Franck’s Piano Quintet and Debussy’s String Quartet make an apt and unusual coupling, each work its composer’s only, unsurpassable, contribution to the genre. Both receive authoritative performances from Marc-André Hamelin and the Takács Quartet.
Violinist Arabella Steinbacher and pianist Robert Kulek continue their great collaboration with a new PENTATONE release, the recording of Cesar Franck’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in A, which joins Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Op. 18. While Franck’s violin sonata is epic in character, Strauss’ work is full of jovial energy, hope and anticipation. This fusion of elements brilliantly demonstrates the synergy between Steinbacher and Kulek, something we have witnessed during their recital performances over the past few years.
"…An amazing SACD. As interpretations, both of these are in a class of their own, the Franck having strong claims of being the best ever performance of this greatest French late romantic orchestral work. Almost certainly they will never be equalled let alone bettered on SACD." ~SA-CD.net