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Gaston Poulet and Jane Evrard
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)

Iberia (1906-08)
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Goyescas; Intermezzo (1911)
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Aborada del gracioso from Miroirs (1905)
Orchestre du Festival de Besançon/Gaston Poulet. Private recordings 1948
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)

Overture [unid]
Danseries
François COUPERIN (1668-1773)

Troisème Leçon de Ténèbres (publ 1713-17)
Hugues Cuénod and Pail Derenne (tenors)
Marcelle de Lacourt (haprsichord)
Marthe Bracquemont (organ)
Chorale Yvonne Gouverné
Nicolas DALAYRAC (1753-1809)

Quatuor No 3 d MAJOR Op 7 No 3
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)

Sinfonietta
Orchestre fémenin de Paris/Jane Evrard commercial and private recordings 1938-56
MALIBRAN CDRG 182 [78.58]

 

Malibran has cultivated a happy knack of conjoining musical coevals or mutually sympathetic pairings. In the case of this fascinating disc there was an even greater imperative – these two violinists were husband and wife. Poulet is by far the better known and many will recall his name as the young violinist who premiered Debussy’s 1917 Violin Sonata in the Salle Gaveau in Paris, the composer accompanying. A serial prizewinner as a youth he had a duo with Yves Nat, formed his own highly regarded quartet (on the advice of no less than Fauré) and was encouraged to pursue a career as a conductor by Toscanini ("You, with your eyes, you will become a conductor!") He began in Paris, toured South America, returned to the south of France where he formed an orchestra in Bordeaux whilst also heading the prestigious Colonne Orchestra. As a violinist he recorded with his quartet but made no discs as a soloist. His recording with Ferras of the Elizalde violin Concerto has recently reappeared on Testament and older collectors will remember his collaboration with Menuhin in Saint-Saëns and Poulet’s own highly impressive violinist son Gérard on Remington. He died in 1974.

His fairly meagre discography has here been supplanted by what appears to be private recordings made at the Besançon Festival in 1948. They are in remarkably fine shape and boast impressive frequency response. It helps in addition that the repertoire was so congenial to a Frenchman of his generation and as a string player one who bring colour and expressive breadth and imperishable style to his performances. He clearly wasn’t a powerhouse conductor – more a colourist and subtle delineator of orchestral shards and strands and these performances reflect well on him and the orchestra. His Albeniz is evocative and brings out some really individual and fine playing from the strings, the muted trumpets and percussion (in El Puerto) and the noble rounded brass in El Corpus en Sevilla where he extracts colour at every turn. There is strong, snappy rhythm in El Albaicin and plenty of glimmer and glint. He’s tautly expressive in the Granados and in the Ravel one can admire the agility of the flutes and brass and the sheer stylishness Poulet cultivates.

Jeanne Chevalier met Poulet at the Conservatoire Nationale de Paris and they married in 1912. She was playing in her husband’s quartet on the famous occasion when Debussy announced that they were playing his Quartet rather differently from the way he’d expected but from now on that’s how it should be played. Gradually Jeanne – or Jane Evrard as she was to become – formed an all female chamber orchestra that explored early repertoire (Gretry, Couperin) and also did sterling service by premiering new work by such as Honegger, Schmidt and indeed the Sinfonietta by Roussel, which is preserved here in a 1956 radio broadcast – she’d also recorded it for HMV in the 1930s. Her portion of the disc highlights those twin strengths; the ancient and the up-to-date. Her Roussel is resonant and expertly judged, catching both its saturnine and piquant depths, the twenty-two strings lithe and lean. Her Lully has plenty of old fashioned charm, dramatic rallentandi and an audible harpsichord and the Dalayrac is a piece the Krettly Quartet recorded (probably Evrard knew it from her own experience in her quartet). The jewel though is the Couperin. There was something of a mini explosion of interest in Couperin at the time in Paris; new editions had been published and recordings were now not entirely uncommon – Landowska led the way but Alice Ehlers and Yella Pessl all recorded Couperin on the harpsichord and a number of vocal and instrumental works had been recorded. Nevertheless in an analogue to Nadia Boulanger’s almost contemporaneous exploration on record of Monteverdi (which also featured Hugues Cuénod) this is a most moving exploration of the Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres. Its ability still to move is based on the very obvious sincerity and sense of purposeful delicacy the forces bring to the work, in all their romantic engagement. Its imperfections seem to me trivial in comparison and the way in which the solo trumpet courses and winds its way behind the melismatic chorus is still a thing of wonder.

The notes – in French and English – are by Manuel Poulet and the disc as a whole sheds fascinating light on a previously under explored area of French musical life.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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