Masterclass: Franck Violin Sonata (Cello Version)

Meneses cr Clive Barda

Preserving energy, planning ahead and prioritising phrasing in every line are key to cellist Antonio Meneses’s interpretation of the fourth movement

It was perhaps 35 years ago when I played the Franck Sonata for the first time, and I enjoyed it less than I thought I would. It is the most beautiful piece and there are many good reasons why people transcribe it on to different instruments, but on the cello somehow I was not satisfied with the result. It sounded too dark and sombre, not shining and full of light like the higher violin version. After that I didn’t play it again until around ten years ago, when I noticed something that saved the piece for me: Jules Delsart’s cello transcription is sometimes two octaves lower than the original, rather than just one. I asked myself why: was it to make it easier and more attractive for cellists to play? I also realised that it was possible to transpose parts of the first movement and much of the last movement up one octave, to create a lighter feeling similar to what the violin is able to do. It does make things a little more difficult to play, but I find that now it sounds almost as good on the cello as it does on the violin. It is a violin piece, after all!

Approach to tempo

One of the last times I played this piece was with pianist Menahem Pressler, who took the fourth movement incredibly slowly, in four. At first I felt as though I was running out of breath, but he is a genius musician, so in the end I followed him and we made it work. In general, however, I prefer to think of it in a fluid and more energetic two…

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