5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2011
Faure only composed two movements of his violin concerto, feeling unable to complete the finale. The slow movement was salvaged, becoming the "Andante for Violin and Piano", Op.75. Although stylistically the movement which remains is far less representative of the composer than the roughly contemporary "Ballade for piano and orchestra" Op.19, it is hardly less attractive. This is not, of course, a display concerto though Faure does challenge his soloist at transitional points. Instead, the music unfolds with a totally unforced lyricism. The movement is in a clear sonata form, the lovely second subject, which is not heard until 4 mins 56 secs and which is very much at the music's heart, being reserved for the soloist. There is a brief tutti at the end of the exposition. The development section concerns itself exclusively with the first subject and the recapitulation is regular. There is no cadenza. A scintillating coda brings this exquisite piece to a close.
Saint-Saens' "Morceau de Concert" Op. 62, is also a fine piece. Originally intended as the first movement of the Violin Concerto No 3, it makes far more demands on the soloist than does Faure's concerto. This time there is a cadenza. The second subject is a fine one and, as is usually the case in Saint-Saens' music, the composer's complete technical assurance and ear for orchestral colour means that there is always something to listen to even if, ultimately, you feel just a little short-changed emotionally.
Lalo's "Fantasie Norvegienne" is built on Norwegian folk tunes. It was written for Sarasate, the finale giving him plenty of opportunities to display his particular brand of virtuosity. The tunes are not really developed purposefully so the music is more a set of arrangements than a composition in its own right. It is still a most attractive work, however.
Lalo's "Guitarre" was written for his own use (he was a fine violinist himself) and later orchestrated by Pierne. It is a ternary piece, not particularly memorable melodically, but effective in this version which uses, not surprisingly, pizzicato strings to imitate the sound of the guitar. The effect is fairly mild, however.
Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892) is known almost exclusively as the composer of some of the recitatives for "Carmen". The "Caprice" is, in fact, in two sections, the first not at all capricious. It was probably intended to follow in the footsteps of Saint-Saens' "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso". The first section (it's more than an introduction) is conventionally melodious while the second is built on a "capricious" tune which is contrasted with a central hymn-like melody. Though attractive, the "Caprice" cannot compare with Saint-Saens' piece for melodic flair, of course.
The disc concludes with a 15 1/2 minute "Poeme" by Joseph Canteloube (1879-1957), the famous arranger of those "Songs of the Auvergne" which have become so popular in recent years. This is an ecstatic work which alone is worth the price of the disc. Canteloube was a pupil of D'Indy at Wagner's sanctuary in France, the Schola Cantorum, and the "Poeme" certainly reflects his training. Quite unlike any of the other music on the disc, this piece makes no concessions to classicism; it is a full-blooded Romantic work. Obviously suggested by Chausson's "Poeme", the chromatic harmonies and rich orchestration of Canteloube's piece provide a cushion of sound above which the violin effortlessly soars. You may be reminded of the English High Romantics, Delius in particular.
Canteloube keeps his soloist busy and, as he has a habit of introducing important melodic material in the orchestra while the soloist's rapturous outpourings are diverting your ear, the "Poeme" is melodically elusive and may at first strike you as another of those late Romantic triumphs of style over substance. You will, then, need to listen several times to find your way around. However, at a first hearing, don't miss the lovely tune first heard on the flute at 4 mins 31 secs and then repeated by the violin at 5 mins 18 secs. The ensuing fast music is built on the opening material and that lovely flute melody. The opening material returns at 8 mins 2 secs, now in its most rapturous form. The flute tune, now led by the oboe, returns at 10 mins 53 secs and is given to the soloist at 11 mins 38 secs.
Although he is one of those soloists who should record with a clothes peg on his nose, Graffin makes a lovely sound and phrases most sensitively. The recording is rich and full and I simply cannot imagine this music being better presented. Buy this disc, above all, for the Faure Concerto and the Canteloube "Poeme".
on 16 April 2014
I don't very often review discs that have already been reviewed, particularly so comprehensively and with such insight as here by Someonewhocares2, but this utterly delightful recording surely merits more than just one five-star recommendation.
Concert programmes these days, with their heavy and self-limiting reliance on the "overture-concerto-interval-symphony" structure, don't leave much room for the sort of shorter pieces for soloist and orchestra that were so popular during the nineteenth century but this adventurous compilation goes to show just what pleasures contemporary audiences are missing. Lalo's 'Fantasie norvégienne' and Saint-Saëns' 'Morceau de Concert' are probably the two works here most likely to be familiar to listeners, if only from recordings, and Graffin provides sterling advocacy for both: the reading of the 'Fantasie norvégienne' here is one of the best I've heard, with a pleasingly full tone in the more Romantic lyrical passages (the atmospheric slow introduction, for instance, is beautifully evocative and haunting; the central 'Andante' heartfelt and touching) and a combination of adroitness and panache in the sparkling finale.
And these are qualities he brings to all the music here, which (needless to say, given the album's title!) contains some real rarities for the listener, their lack of familiarity another casualty of our current ossified concert repertoires. Guiraud is, of course, now really only known as the author of the discredited recitatives he provided for 'Carmen' but his engaging and nicely orchestrated 'Caprice' suggests that posterity might have been unfair on him and leads one to think his more substantial compositions might be worth investigating. The two most substantial and rewarding pieces here, to my ears, are the now stand-alone opening movement of Fauré's concerto (the 'Andante' in its orchestral guise now sadly lost and the finale never completed) and the 'Poème' by Canteloube: the Fauré balances lyrical grace with an assured handling of sonata form, leaving one with the regret that the work remained unfinished - although it may be slightly atypical in the context of his mature oeuvre as a whole, it is beautifully scored and melodically memorable, and I am extremely grateful for its inclusion on the disc; Canteloube's 'Poème', as the previous reviewer has stated, is a passionate and rhapsodic piece, the violin soaring above a rich tapestry of orchestral invention, lush in scoring and harmonic writing - again, one is left wondering what the remainder of Canteloube's output is like, aside from the perennially fresh 'Chants d'Auvergne'.
Philippe Graffin's eloquence and technical proficiency is matched by the finesse of the accompaniment provided by the Ulster Orchestra under Thierry Fischer and by the recording quality, which is finely balanced with a natural warmth and resonance that still allows every detail (particularly in the sophisticated scoring of the 'Poème') to be heard. It's good to have this recording, testament to the artistic spirit and commitment to high standards that Hyperion has consistently maintained, available under their budget-priced Helios banner and I enthusiastically endorse the previous reviewer's recommendation of it.
on 18 September 2014
I too am surprised there are not dozens of 5 star reccommendations for this disc. And indeed like one of the other customer reviewers here, I wonder why these works are so little aired either in the concert hall or indeed on the 'current ossidfied' playlists on Radio 3 and Classic fm. I can do no more than say that this disc is a sheer delight. Performances (I don't notice the breathing) and sound quality are superb, and if the music could be denigrated as being lightweight, I for one am glad of it. We need to hear more music that lifts the spirit and gladens the heart. Heaven knows the majority of our establishment composers these days produce very little to gladden anything but their own egos. Enough said ... my fellow reviewers put it so much more eloquently than I. Get out and buy this disc and you will enjoy a Rare Delight.