C. Franck – Violin Sonata in A III.Recitativo-Fantasia

Live Performance at The House Concert, 6th of September 2019

Eric Seohyun Moon, Viola

Sejun Lee, Piano


The Violin Sonata in A was written in 1886, when César Franck was 63, as a wedding present for the 28-year-old violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Twenty-eight years earlier, in 1858, Franck had promised a violin sonata for Cosima von Bülow. This never appeared; it has been speculated that whatever work Franck had done on that piece was put aside, and eventually ended up in the sonata he wrote for Ysaÿe in 1886.

Franck was not present when Ysaÿe married, but on the morning of the wedding, on 26 September 1886 in Arlon, their mutual friend Charles Bordes presented the work as Franck’s gift to Ysaÿe and his bride Louise Bourdeau de Courtrai. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe and Bordes’ sister-in-law, the pianist Marie-Léontine Bordes-Pène, played the Sonata to the other wedding guests.

The Sonata was given its first public concert performance on 16 December of that year, at the Musée Moderne de Peinture (Museum of Modern Painting) in Brussels. Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène were again the performers. The Sonata was the final item in a long program which started at 3pm. When the time arrived for the Sonata, dusk had fallen and the gallery was bathed in gloom, but the museum authorities permitted no artificial light whatsoever. Initially, it seemed the Sonata would have to be abandoned, but Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène decided to continue regardless. They had to play the last three movements from memory in virtual darkness. When the violinist Armand Parent remarked that Ysaÿe had played the first movement faster than the composer intended, Franck replied that Ysaÿe had made the right decision, saying “from now on there will be no other way to play it”. Vincent d’Indy, who was present, recorded these details of the event.

Ysaÿe kept the Violin Sonata in his repertoire for the next 40 years of his life, with a variety of pianists, like Théo Ysaÿe, Ernest Chausson, Ferruccio Busoni, Vincent d’Indy, Raoul Pugno, Camille Decreus, Arthur De Greef, Leopold Godowsky, Yves Nat, and many others. His championing of the Sonata contributed to the public recognition of Franck as a major composer. This recognition was quite belated; Franck died within four years of the Sonata’s public première, and did not have his first unqualified public success until the last year of his life (on 19 April 1890, at the Salle Pleyel, where his String Quartet in D was premiered).

The Sonata in A regularly appears on concert programs and on recordings, and is in the core repertoire of all major violinists. Jascha Heifetz played it at his final recital in 1972.

The piece is further notable for the difficulty of its piano part, when compared with most of the chamber repertoire. Its technical problems include frequent extreme extended figures—the composer himself having possessed huge hands—and virtuoso runs and leaps, particularly in the second movement (though some passages can be facilitated by employing a spare hand to cover some notes).

Source : wikipedia.org