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LE BOEUF SUR LE TOIT
French works for violin and orchestra

Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), Jules Massenet (1842-1912), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
Saint-Saëns Introduction et rondo capriccioso Op.28; Havanaise Op.83; Valse-caprice Op.52 No.6; Danse macabre Op.40
Massenet Meditation from Thaïs
Ravel Tzigane
Berlioz Reverie and caprice Op. 8
Milhaud Le boeuf sur le toit Op. 58b
Renaud Capuçon (violin)
Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Daniel Harding (conductor)
Recorded at Gutsscheune Stuhr-Varrel, Bremen, 29-30 November 2000
VIRGIN CLASSICS 7243 5 45482 2 [73.49]


Renaud Capuçon, the 24 year-old French violinist, nominated as New Talent of the Year 2000 by the French Victoires de la Musique, is now an exclusive artist with Virgin Classics label, and this debut album, looks, on the face of it, like a Beecham lollipops album (though TB would never have tolerated a soloist to rival him), but it is rather more sophisticated than that. Admittedly some of the Saint-Saëns works are fireworks (Havanaise) and little more, though refined ones at that (such as the Lisztian Danse macabre), and Massenet’s sublime interlude is a silky balm to the nerves, particularly in the hands of these two young men (Harding not being much older than his soloist). They are evidently the moving lights behind this disc and are clearly enjoying it all, and the photo of them in the CD booklet shows an uncannily eerie similarity of likeness. Their unity of ensemble throughout is impeccable thanks to Harding, at the head of his own German orchestra in Bremen, who draws virile playing from his players.

Capuçon plays a 1721 Stradivarius which belonged to none other than Kreisler, and his virtuosity is not to be denied. Rather like the recent disc of Chloë Hanslip and the LSO review (is this the new vogue?) the music is well chosen (though she went for more of the salon music scenario) and provides the ear with tuneful delights, for example Berlioz’s elegiac Reverie and caprice (written for Kreutzer). The pseudo- Hungarian Tzigane which Ravel wrote for Jelly d’Aranyi, is fiendishly difficult to play with its harmonics, double-stops and left hand pizzicato all tossed off with consummate artistry by this young man. This is the best music on the disc, and the most interesting and challenging for the orchestra who duly rise to the occasion. There is a kind of caustic wit, sardonic French humour perhaps, to this work, taken up by Milhaud in his concoction of Brazilian folk tunes and syncopated rhythms, normally a work for orchestra alone but adapted in this version by the composer himself into a Chaplin-like silent movie style. It is an uproariously funny piece, made the more grotesque in this version by the scratchy fiddling, bad tuning and plain wrong notes, and to top it all it is provided with another challenging cadenza, but by Honegger. Great fun, but probably not for poor old Stradivarius; this track alone will have him spinning in his grave.

Christopher Fifield


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