BEETHOVEN; FRANCK Violin Sonatas transcribed for Cello
‘Up high it sounds nasal, and down low it grumbles’: Dvořák’s supposed comment about the solo cello came to mind while listening to these two adaptations of famous violin sonatas. Not that there’s a great deal of ‘down low’ in Auguste Franchomme’s 1867 transcription of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Franchomme was nothing if not a formidable technician and his arrangement attempts to translate the full virtuoso brilliance of Beethoven’s violin-writing to a very different instrument. And while there’s definitely a certain satisfaction in hearing Beethoven’s crunchy spread chords transferred to the ringing sonority of the cello, that also means a great deal of scurrying high-pitched passagework.
That, unfortunately, is where Roberto Trainini is weakest. His tone isn’t intrinsically unattractive, but it’s wiry and tight, making it sound forced in the passages where the cello battles against Cristiano Burato’s bright-sounding piano and offering little by way of tonal warmth in Beethoven’s more lyrical passages. The pair are at their best in the central variations: Burato’s playing has an understated wit, although Trainini’s intonation can wobble slightly when he reaches the stratosphere. Overall, this isn’t always easy on the ear, and that’s not wholly the performers’ fault.
César Franck’s A major Violin Sonata has much more of a pedigree as a cello piece – the composer himself authorised Jules Delsart’s transcription. Again, this isn’t a performance to turn to if you like your Franck lush, though Burato finds a Ravel-like combination of sensuality and clarity, and Trainini’s phrasing is never less than shapely. But a list of cellists ranging from Jacqueline du Pré (6/90) to Pieter Wispelwey (2/03) has prior claim on your attention here; unless, of course, this unusual coupling happens to be exactly what you’re after.