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Lekeu, Franck, Dupré: Works for Violin and Piano

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César Franck was an outstanding organist, also known as an excellent impro- viser, and to this day his compositional work for organ enjoys widespread recognition. Franck took part in the inauguration of many new organs created by the most outstanding builders of the time. In doing so, and through his compositional style, he promoted the symphonic style of organ music, which was characterized by the orchestral treatment of the instrument. This impulse towards the symphonic is also noticeable in the Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, written as a wedding gift to the famous violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. While the Sonata in A Major is rightly celebrated as one of the most performed violin sonatas ever written, Mélancolie, presented on this recording, is much less often heard. It is a short character piece full of the beautiful melody and nostalgia so characteristic of this composer.

One of César Franck’s most talented students, Guillaume Lekeu developed a compositional style showing Franck’s influence through rich harmonic language, expansive melodies, and expressive polyphony. His Sonata in G Major for piano and violin was commissioned by Eugène Ysaÿe, and the pattern of recurring themes in it was considered by many as the inspiration for Vinteuil Sonata, a fictional work described by Marcel Proust in his novel sequence In Search of Lost Time. One can only speculate how Lekeu’s career would have turned out if it had not been for his untimely death the day after his 24th birthday. His compositions are characterized by a lyrical character, expansive form, and an abundance of melody, sometimes presented in several polyphonic layers. He said about his works that “joy is a thousand times harder to paint than suffering”.

Marcel Dupré, a famous organ virtuoso, teacher, improviser, and composer, created new standards in the art of organ playing. He was famous for the incredible technique of both hands and feet, the use of a strict legate, and rhythmic precision. His mastery of form was truly impressive, and his ability to improvise counterpoint was legendary. As a teacher, he formed some of the most famous organ talents of the twentieth century. His compositional language is based on the juxtaposition of polyphoni- cally and strictly written fragments with those written in a free piano style, sometimes even combining both techniques. The Sonata in G Minor, Op. 5 for violin and piano is one of the composer’s earlier works, written in a late romantic style. The sonata is dedicated to his teacher, the organist, and composer Louis Vierne, who had studied with César Franck. Remarkably, this recording is the first recording of this incredible masterpiece, more than a century after its creation!

Rehearsing the music for this program has been an unusual journey. The richness of the writing in both the Dupré and Lekeu sonatas is coloristic and virtuosic, and extremely enjoyable to play. We hope that this recording will inspire more performances of these lesser-known masterpieces.

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