Steinberg Duo

Franck & Grieg Violin Sonatas, etc

(Nimbus Alliance)

My lifelong Cesar Franck-ophobia, with that interminable leviathan of a symphony one of the most heavy-footed examples of the species, is pretty unshakeable. There is a single exception for me in the Franck catalogue, the only masterpiece in which Franck hit the bullseye dead-on, and that is the absolutely flawless Violin Sonata. It captures the quintessence of Romanticism at every turn in each of its movements, from wistfulness and tender longing, to the boiling passion of the second movement and the brilliantly structured but unbuttoned, near-spontaneous joy of its finale, in which the music, without blemish, streams sunnily from the page. Louisa Stonehill and Nicholas Burns, the Steinberg Duo, themselves hit the target in their superbly characterised and open-hearted account of the Sonata, which is well complemented with a bright, confident performance of Grieg's rather underrated Third Violin Sonata, Franck's gentle Andantino Quietoso, and Dvorak's Four Romantic Pieces, in which there is more substance than at first meets the ear.

Michael Tumelty