This generously filled disc (79'21'') of matchless music-making) celebrates Cortot in all his glory ; in his prime and at his most rapturous and incandescent. Cortot may have made mischievous references to Franck’s “côté artisan d’église” (literally, “church-worker style”) but his actual playing suggests a Messianic zeal, light years away from popular and reductive notions of music’s Pater seraphicus. So many modern recordings of these works (and together with the Piano Quintet — also available from Cortot on Biddulph, 11/91 — they are among Franck’s greatest masterpieces) seem set in aspic in comparison, unable to aspire to, let alone achieve, Cortot’s soaring liberation.
Here once more are those unique virtues, that haunting cantabile (the end of the "Aria" from the Prelude, aria and final, where eddying semiquavers give way to simple quaver chording), his brilliance and vivacity (12'27'' in the Symphonic Variations where Franck’s insinuating elaboration is whirled away in dizzying waltz time), his polyphonic voicing (which Alfred Brendel, always among Cortot’s greatest admirers, laments as a lost art) and perhaps most of all a capacity to imitate the art of a great singer. In the Prelude, aria et final’s opening theme you hear Cortot carrying the argument forward from phrase to phrase, from arch to arch, yet at the same time relishing each progression with an infinite sense of piquancy and vivacity. True, caught in the agony and ecstasy of his recreation, Cortot could topple into confusion (though his famous muddles are few and far between on these recordings) but whether in isolation or in radiant partnership with Jacques Thibaud his vision and probity are unfaltering. Thibaud’s swooning portamentos may seem unfashionably unctious today but it takes little historic imagination to sense in such expansiveness a graphic sweep and intensity that somehow defy both time and stylistic convention.
Ward Marston’s transfers of recordings dating from 1927-32 are eminently successful.Bryce Morrison
Source : http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/alfred-cortot-plays-franck
1 Prélude, Choral et Fugue (1884) 17:07
2 Prélude, Aria et Final (1886/7) 20:48
Violin Sonata in A Major
3 I. Allegretto ben moderato 6:27
4 II. Allegro 7:30
5 III. Recitativo-Fantasia. Ben moderato 7:03
6 IV. Allegretto poco mosso 5:47
7 Variations Symphoniques 14:29
Alfred Cortot - p
Jacques Thibaud - vl [# 3-6]
Recorded between June 22, 1927 & March 8, 1932
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