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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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RAPHAËL FUMET (1898 - 1979)
Hommage à Raphaël Fumet
L’Ange des Bois for piano solo
Lacrimosa for viola and piano
Barcarolle for viola and piano
Ode Concertante for flute and piano
La Rose for violin and piano
Toccata for organ
La Nuit for string orchestra
Bruno Rigutto, piano, Gérard Caussé, viola, Gabrielle Fumet, flute, Jean Mouillère, violin, Jean Galard, organ, Ichiro Nodaïra, piano, Chamber Orchestra/Jean-Jacques Wiederker, Anne Wiederker, solo violin
ARION ARN 68475 [60:26]

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This recording has a strong family flavour about it; the featured composer Raphaël Fumet was the son of an important 19th century French musician, the wonderfully-named Dynam-Victor Fumet, while Raphaël’s son, the flautist Gabriel Fumet, seems to have been the moving force behind this disc.

Fumet’s music can fairly be described as conservative, though this is not intended pejoratively. It is influenced by great figures of late Romanticism – Rachmaninov and Ravel seem to me to loom very large – rather than, as one might expect given Fumet’s dates, either Les Six or the French avant-garde. In fact, the first two pieces on the disc – the piano piece ‘L’Ange des Bois’ and the viola solo ‘Lacrimosa’ - start further back still, the first echoing Chopin in the piano textures, and the second suggesting Brahms with its dignified unfolding melody. Both, though, soon leave stylistic allusions behind, and present us with a composer who was very much his own man. Many of the harmonic touches in Lacrimosa are most beautiful, as is the sympathetic writing for the solo instrument. I would strongly recommend this piece to viola players, whose repertoire is not as tightly packed as those of the violin and 'cello. This, together with the more straightforwardly melancholy Barcarolle, is given a highly affecting performance by Gérard Caussé, sensitively accompanied by Ichiro Nodaïra.

Although short, the Toccata for organ solo is a stunner! A brilliant and exciting piece, it has the physical exuberance of the best 20th century French organ music. The busy figuration and striding bass melodies naturally evoke Widor, yet the music has real grit, with scrunching dissonances that resolve into a splendid culminating concord. It is very frustrating that there are no details of any kind on the disc regarding dates or venues of these recordings. The Toccata was certainly recorded in a large church, as the final reverberation continues for at least six seconds! I wonder was it recorded at the Church in Angers where Fumet was organist for many years? We should be told! The standard of recording throughout is highly acceptable, both in the solo items and in La Nuit for string orchestra. I’m tempted to describe this piece as Transfigured Night-lite, but that would actually be unfair (though not a million miles from the truth!). It is, anyway, the most progressive, or the least conservative of the works here recorded, and contains some glorious writing for the strings.

The Ode Concertante for flute and piano is the largest-scale work on the disc. This is challenging stuff, not least for the flautist, who has to have complete command of the extremes of his instrument’s range. Given that this work was composed for Fumet’s son Gabriel, who performs it here, one can take stylistic authenticity for granted, and be suitably impressed by the sheer virtuosity of Fumet fils. This is no ‘mere’ display piece, though; on the contrary, it is a most thoughtfully created and originally laid-out composition. Fumet juxtaposes impressionist passages, unaccompanied cadenzas for the flute, fluttering agitato music and much else, all coalescing in a simple and convincing conclusion.

La Rose for solo violin completes this enjoyable and unusual programme. This may not be music to take the world by storm. But it is emphatically worth both playing and hearing. The fact that Fumet himself apparently heard so very little of it in his lifetime makes this issue all the more touching a tribute to his art.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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