Review: Violinist Zina Schiff’s ‘Franck, Bloch, and Krein’

Violinist Zina Schiff’s new album incorporates technical elements and conjures existential musings

By Cristina Schreil

Time to meditate? Don’t reach for that candle and yoga mat just yet. Soul-searching spirit quests link the works featured on a new album by violinist Zina Schiff and pianist Cameron Grant. The unquestionably skilled pair unite again for thought-provoking and mellifluous interpretations of César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A, Ernest Bloch’s Violin Sonata No. 2, “Poème Mystique,” and Julien Krein’s Berceuse. The pieces sprang from different circumstances and points in each composer’s life, as Schiff explains, but each offers an inspection of the place where human experience meets existential musing.


It’s all effectively beautiful, but Schiff’s and Grant’s artistry allows listeners to think critically about the different technical elements in each piece. From the placid opening notes by Grant in the first Allegretto ben moderato movement of Franck’s sonata, the album blooms with tender warmth and rewarding musicality. Echoes abound here—both themes that develop in the next three movements and between the violin and piano parts—and they’re satisfying to hone in on. One might begin to daydream of wandering through tranquil city streets while chewing on a philosophical quandary.

“Poème Mystique” takes the idea of the inward-turning spiritual quest begun in the first work to a more external wandering, namely with allusions to oriental melodies tickled on the piano and Klezmer-like phrases at times sparking from Schiff. An entrancing end to the album, Krein’s Berceuse conjures a more abstract dream world, as the title suggests. It offers the sensation of sauntering—then soaring—through a reverie painted in broad, textured strokes.

Zina Schiff Cameron Grant
Franck, Bloch, and Krein
Zina Schiff, Cameron Grant
(MSR Classics)