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French Impressions

31 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 10, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

French Impressions, Joshua Bell's first recital program for Sony Classical features the Grammy Award-winning violinist and his longtime friend and recital partner, pianist Jeremy Denk, offering a passionately nuanced interpretation of works by Saint-Saens, Ravel and Franck.
When Bell and Denk performed Saint-Saens Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Minor during their 2010 recital tour, the New York Times raved "Mr. Bell and Mr. Denk gave a passionate performance…There were plenty of fireworks in the whirlwind of the concluding movement."
Says Bell, "French Impressions is the culmination of my last decade of exploration and performance with pianist Jeremy Denk, and I hope that with this recording we can affect the listener with the same joy and spiritual enrichment that these masterpieces have provided us over the years."

Repertoire: Bell's first recording of Cesar Franck's Violin Sonata in A Major allows Bell to pay homage, through his mentor Josef Gingold, to the two great artists who created this undying masterpiece. It was written 125 years ago, at the height of the French Belle Epoque, for the wedding of Franck's friend, the virtuoso Eugene Ysaye (with whom Gingold studied). In his music, Franck captured everything about the time: life, love, passion. While the Franck piece has the biggest reputation, the Saint-Saens remains one of the most exciting sonatas in the repertoire, richly sensual within a formal scheme that Beethoven would recognize. The feverish finale is guaranteed to bring the house down. Ravel's more fantastic sonata, by turns ethereal, earthy, abstract and sensual, offers a kaleidoscope of different thrills. Produced by multiple Grammy Award-winner Steven Epstein.

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. Allegro agitato 6:58$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 75: Adagio 5:25$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 75: Allegretto moderato 4:14$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 75: Allegro molto 5:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Violin Sonata in A Major: Allegretto ben moderato 6:13$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Allegro 7:59$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. Recitativo - Fantasia: ben moderato - molto lento 7:18$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Violin Sonata in A Major: Allegretto poco mosso 6:04$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Sonata for Violin and Piano (1927): Allegretto 7:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Blues: Moderato 5:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. Sonata for Violin and Piano (1927): Perpetuum Mobile: Allegro 3:43$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Performer: Joshua Bell, Jeremy Denk
  • Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, César Franck
  • Audio CD (January 10, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • ASIN: B0067YF4Z4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,429 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Both Joshua Bell, violin, and Jeremy Denk, piano, are enjoying brilliant careers in solo recitals and with orchestras and chamber ensembles around the world. Their relationship began in 2004 when they first joined mind and hands for making music. Now seven years later they continue to perform together whenever their busy careers allow. This recording captures three of heir favorite and most frequently performed works. All three are from the French Impressionists (actually Cesar Franck is from Belgium, but spent most of his creative live in France): Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1, Cesar Franck Violin Sonata in A Major, and Maurice Ravel Sonata for Violin and Piano.

To say that the beauty of their sound is the epitome of violin and piano music making is redundant. The degree of interplay and communication gives evidence of the innate musicality of both these young men is mysteriously in sync, even more so than knowing that they have performed together for so many years. As has been written regarding the liner notes of this recording , 'the fine pianist Jeremy Denk manages to encapsulate the elusiveness of French romantic music with such insight in a few sharp sentences, his words almost shape the way we listen to this superbly played disc.' Critics from England are saying 'Saint-Saëns' wistful and emotional Sonata No 1 and Ravel's bluesy, ironic sonata have a whipped, airy quality. Joshua Bell plays with fire and finesse, with Denk a powerful ally. Franck's dark-light violin sonata, mysterious, ardent and far more than the sum of its parts when played as majestically as here, forms the centerpiece of this seriously beguiling album.'

Of all the new recording issued thus far this year this CD, FRENCH IMPRESSIONS, with the combined allure of Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk, is one of the very finest. Grady Harp, January 12
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Format: Audio CD
Five IMPRESSIONISTIC Stars!! Classical virtuosos Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk are a superbly-paired and dynamic duo! Seven years into their musical association, this formidable duo has decided to do a grouping of pieces they have played many times in concert. These represent some of the most "profound statements" of the chosen French composers. While the more familiar and challenging César Franck Violin Sonata in A Major (especially the intense Allegretto poco mosso movement) and the well known Maurice Ravel Sonata for Violin and Piano (especially the full-tilt Perpetuum Mobile: Allegro movement) receive glorious performances by Mr. Bell and Dr. Denk, the 'best of the best' is the less familiar Camille Saint-Saëns Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Opus 75: a piece the duo has played "50 times or more" and the familiarity, understanding, and matched duo nuances are clearly on demonstration here (especially the thrilling Allegro Agitato, the Adagio, and perhaps best of all, the awesome Allegro molto movement). These are inspired performances by two superb musicians on a singular musical mission that receive My Highest Recommendation. Five DAZZLING Stars! (This review is based on an mp3 download. 11 tracks; Time 67:21.)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By congwen on March 7, 2012
Format: Audio CD
After getting it yesterday afternoon, I have listened to this CD for 4 times. It's just so beautiful and intriguing that I simply can't stop listening to it. I'm totally in love with Joshua Bell's violin sound. I didn't used to care for violin music until I heard his playing. The smooth, silvery sound is incredible, and his beautiful lyrical tone makes everything he plays seem special.

Every piece in this collection is executed with absolute precision, but the sound is never clinical. The warm singing tone of Bell's Strad and the clear resonant melody from Denk's Steinway complement each other nicely. I especially like their rendition of Ravel's Sonata. From the transparent, airy opening movement, to the lovely bluesy central movement, and then to the energetic final movement, they offered a truly ear-catching performance. The Saint-Saens and Franck are also delivered excellently, with much grace and refinement. As Denk's well written liner notes pointed out, this music is about the color of sounds, and this recording really brings out the different shades of the music. In this sense, the title is not a misnomer at all - it is just like the French impressionist paintings, a celebration of the beauty of light and colors.

All in all, this wonderful recording is a real treat for the classical music lovers.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ronald B. Ein on March 4, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
During his career Joshua Bell has covered the range of European violin music from Russia to the U.S., including our folk traditions. He is fully capable of the biggest Romantic gestures, full-on theatrics when playing Russian or Germanic pieces. But he has a special connection to the French tradition, particularly of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spinning out lyrical lines with ease and grace, shaping dynamics with subtle artlessness. This recording presents three of the most important and beautiful violin-piano sonatas of this school.

First, Jeremy Denk is a complete partner in this effort on piano. The two performers match phrasing, mood, style. Fine pairing.

Second, I was particularly interested in his take on the Saint-Saens Sonata No. 1 because I had just attended Julia Fischer's recital that included this piece, so wanted to compare. Fischer was, if anything, a bit more muscular, more emphatic, than Bell. Some of Fischer's energy may have come from my hearing a live performance, adrenaline playing a bit more into her interpretation. Still, each was within the scope of the composition, bringing out the darker quality of Saint-Saens found more in his chamber pieces than the orchestral work.

Third, Bell's teacher was Josef Gingold who was a student of Eugene Ysaye, in whose circle of close friends was Caesar Franck who made a gift of his new Sonata to Ysaye on the latter's wedding. In interviews Bell has talked about the importance to him of that line of connection to the creation and transmission of this piece. Perhaps it is superfluous to write that Bell's technique is impeccable, but I have tried to play this sonata only to find it far more difficult than it looks on the page.
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