Catherine Manoukian

Concert Reviews

Strauss and Franck: Violin Sonatas

E flat major is so strongly associated in the German musical psyche with massive, heroic statements - Beethoven's Eroica Symphony and Emperor Piano Concerto and R Strauss's Ein Heldenleben spring to mind in this respect - that the general tendency when performing Strauss's E flat Violin Sonata is to emphasise its swashbuckling qualities...

Not violinist Catherine Manooukian, however, who 'sings' Strauss's exultant phrases with a seamless cantabile which constantly reminds one that Strauss was one of the finest composers for the voice. In the finale's secondary material she exchanges rapier-like thrust of the traditional readings for a cushioned sonority of beguiling sensuality. Pianist Xiayin Wang also works miracles in bringing a luminiscent glow to Strauss's virtuosic textures.

If anything, their Franck is finer still. The opening movement's super-heated phrases are temporally and tonally micro-inflected with radiant suppleness, and they bring a melt-in-the-mouth quality to the finale's melodic tendresse that is unforgettable. Bravo!

by Julian Haylock, BBC Music Magazine

updated: 6 years ago

Strauss and Franck: Violin Sonatas

The raw-edged fresh tone of Canadian-born form Dorothy DeLay pupil Catherine Manoukian suits the tempestous Romanticism of these sonatas by Strauss and Franck, and Xiayin Wang she has a suitably sympathetic partner...

The opening Allegro of the Strauss is gorgeously rich and full-voiced, though the central improvisation - Andante cantabile occasionally suffers from dips in momentum, where the players do not achieve the intensity of expression that would carry these introspective deliberations forward. However, with the exuberant allegro finale the pair are on surer footing, Manoukian singing out Strauss's tender and beautiful melodies and Xiayin Wang providing impeccably transparent support.

Manoukian apparently took the opportunity in her teens to perform Franck's sonata at the Parisian church where the composer was once an organist, on a violin that had belonged to Ysaye. In this recording she certainly makes Franck's lovely lines speak, her judicious and thoughtful use of portamentos adding to the expressive eloquence throughout, and Xiayin Wang employs a perfectly judged rubato in the moments where the piano is allowed soloistic space. Phrasing flows here, and each new outpouring is made to count. Technically the pair are totally assured, never putting a fleet finger wrong. The violin is pleasantly high in the mix, never clouded by the piano, and the recorded sound has a satisfying freshness.

by Catherine Nelson, The Strad Magazine

updated: 6 years ago