César Franck wrote his Violin Sonata in A Major as a wedding present for the great Belgian composer and violinist Eugène Ysaÿe in 1886. The story differs. In one version, Ysaÿe asked Franck to write a sonata for him. In another version, Franck surprised Ysaÿe with the sonata as a gift on the morning of his marriage. Ysaÿe rehearsed quickly and performed the sonata at the wedding itself later that day. The sonata soon took its place among the standard masterpieces. Franck wrote his best known works late in life. Indeed he completed his Symphony in D Minor two years after the violin sonata, and the symphony premiered less than two years before his death.
The Franck sonata isn’t about a marriage, or even a wedding ceremony. But if we are lucky, great works of music can capture a unique image of an entire world. And in this composition one can almost hear the stages in a marriage and in a couple’s life together. The tentative, fragile opening, building slowly in confidence as the two instruments, two voices, begin to blend. The second movement opens with a storm in the piano. The violin joins in the storm. Listen as glimmers of sunlight, encouragement, stubborn optimism and resolution poke through the clouds, especially in Petteri’s hands. The final movement alternates between tenderness and exuberance until the story reaches its climax.
David S. Lefkowitz’s Miniature VIII follows the Franck. Petteri is fond of David’s music. With generous help from the Jerry & Adi Greenberg Foundation, Yarlung commissioned Eli Eli for Petteri, which he recorded on our first album. David wrote Miniature VIII in 1994. A well-known violinist played it once at the premiere and then declared it nearly unplayable because of the demands it makes on the left hand, including several unison double-stops. Miniature VIII does not sound difficult. The slow, beautiful and haunting melody draws the listener toward the work’s mood and imagery, not to its virtuosity