The Dog Days of August are, alas, at an end, but the Blog Days of Auguste is just warming up! Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, whose fantastic cello playing is prominently featured on my upcoming Franchomme Project album, reports having just performed Franchomme’s transcription of the Ballade for Piano at Sonoma State University in CA, where she’s in residency this year. She played Chopin’s sonata for cello and piano in the same program. She emailed me:
I performed a lecture-recital featuring both Chopin and Franchomme today in Sonoma State University´s beautiful new Schroeder Hall, for a class centered around the year 1848. I pointed out to the students that Chopin´s last concert took place in Salle Pleyel just days before the revolution in February of that year and among the pieces played were the last three movements from Chopin’s cello sonata, performed with its dedicatee, Auguste Franchomme!
The third movement of the sonata requires the cellist to carry a soaring line, each note more important than the next, holding a world of its own in one little black dot on the page. By paring down the musical material to its bare bones, a spotlight shines on the expressivity of the bow.
It was interesting to me that I found my Hill bow was too heavy for this movement. I use it for almost everything these days as it is more consistent in sound and a little heavier, but for this piece I found I wasn’t able to carve out the more subtle nuances in the quieter sections and used my Lamy (French, OF COURSE!) which made a huge difference. Each note requires such a specific direction and shape to make the line come alive and sing through the phrase that I have to deduce that Franchomme must have been a complete master of his bow arm. I also played Franchomme’s cello-piano arrangement of the Ballade op. 38 that you sent me, just as good as Franchomme’s cello quartet arrangement of this piece that we’ve performed and recorded. What an expressive thumb position Franchomme must have had–I regret that there aren’t recordings of his own performances!