Debussy; Franck; Ravel Violin Sonatas
Though it’s standard repertoire, this is a recital that’s full of interest. Jennifer Pike and Martin Roscoe’s account of the Debussy is particularly fine; in a work where character and style are so important, they never disappoint – the brilliant passages dispatched with gusto, the grotesque moments given their due and the slinky, sensual episodes suitably alluring.
The first movement of the Ravel gives a clear, balanced impression, with no unmarked changes of tempo; Pike’s pure tone contributes perfectly to the bright, spare textures. Compared with the more volatile, temperamental account of Frank Braley and Renaud Capuçon (Virgin, 4/02), it seems cool and objective, qualities I’m sure the composer would have admired. On the other hand, Capuçon and Braley, at a faster tempo, give a more unbuttoned performance of the “Blues” movement, where by comparison Pike and Roscoe seem slightly stiff. But their finale is excellent: Roscoe bringing the different motifs together into a convincing sequence, animated by Pike’s precise moto perpetuo.
There’s similar ability to weld disparate material into a strong discourse in the Recitativo-Fantasia movement in the Franck – its closing pages are captivatingly poetic. In the preceding Allegro, Roscoe’s powerful playing of the agitated piano part threatens at times to overwhelm the violin and I wish, when the second theme goes quiet, they didn’t also slacken the tempo (track 8, 1'41"). But overall, I’m most impressed that Pike isn’t tempted constantly to emote, so that when the feeling does become more intense, it really tells.