The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Philippe Graffin (violin) Claire Désert (piano) German Radio Philharmonic Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern/Christoph Poppen
Composer: R Schumann, C Schumann

It’s strange that violinists haven’t hijacked Schumann’s own violin version of his Cello Concerto, for it makes a more readily attractive work than his subsequent D minor Violin Concerto. It is a straightforward adaptation made at the behest of his friend Joseph Joachim, and only discovered in the 1980s.

Retaining the character of the cello writing, Philippe Graffin liberally applies vibrato to impart the warmth and sonority of the original. His playing is technically immaculate and tempos are ideally chosen, though the upping of pace in the closing bars sounds too contrived for comfort.

The disc’s most extensive score is the second of the two violin sonatas written in quick succession in 1851. Graffin is joined, very much on equal terms, by the outstanding Claire Désert. Their mix of ardent and dreamily expressive passages is aided by a very wide dynamic range subdivided into many subtle colours. With the players always willing to be judged by their personal view and structuring of the score, I found this one of the most desirable versions on disc.   

Clara Schumann dedicated the three short Romances to Joachim, her regular recital partner. They are tender and loving scores to which Graffin brings much affection. The sound quality is excellent, with the violin/orchestra balance perfectly judged.