Tasmin Little plays Franck, Szymanowski, and Fauré
It occurred to me while listening to this sensitively planned programme that the vintage violinist who Tasmin Little most reminds me of is Alfredo Campoli in his prime, by which I mean parallel degrees of warmth, tonal bloom, agility and a feeling of oneness with the instrument that spins the illusion that for the duration she is the violin. These are wholesome, red-blooded performances, direct and deeply satisfying, with no lack of imagination, the Szymanowski Sonata (1904) audibly reflective of both Brahms and Schumann, though the ethereal glitter that fills the composer’s later output edges around much of the canvas.
Little’s rapport with the superb Piers Lane strikes home right from the sonata’s passionate opening. As a team they pull out whatever stops are necessary to make the music work, although no one could claim that this D minor essay is on the same artistic level as, say, the Mythes or the mysterious Notturno e Tarantella of 1917 that ends the programme. Here Little adjusts her approach to accommodate the other-worldly aspects of Szymanowski’s more mature muse, switching to a slim, sinewy sound for the introduction then digging deep for the main body of the piece, navigating the textures with plenty of sensual tone.
Franck’s Sonata was a wedding present from the composer to the violinist-composer Ysaÿe and once again Tasmin Little and Piers Lane chart love’s course from the sophisticated romance of the opening Allegretto ben moderato to the near-operatic candour of the Recitativo-Fantasia with conviction, the finale opening with an appropriately breezy smile. The Franck is tailed with Fauré’s barcarolle-like Romance of 1877, music infused with a deep sense of nostalgia, whereas the Szymanowski sonata is followed by a rather darker and more expressively outreaching Romance (1910), which he dedicated to his friend the violinist Paul Kochanski and which Little invests with considerable intensity.
As to a final reckoning, I’d still recommend Alina Ibragimova with pianist Cédric Tiberghien as prime representatives of the numinous in Szymanowski’s violin chamber repertoire but the disc under review achieves a fine balance of interpretative qualities and is much to be recommended. I note with interest that Tasmin Little is scheduled to record Szymanowski’s two violin concertos and on the evidence of what we have here I’m confident that we shan’t be disappointed, provided she’s granted top-notch orchestral support.