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Joseph BOULOGNE, Chevalier de SAINT-GEORGES (c.1775-1799)
Violin Concertos, Volume 2: Concerto in D, Op. Post. No. 2 (publ. c1800) [22’50]. Concerto No. 10 in G (c1777) [24’07]. Concerto in D, Op. 3 No. 1 (publ. 1773) [18’33].
Qian Zhou (violin)
Toronto Camerata/Kevin Mallon.
Rec. Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada, on April 20th-23rd, 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557322 [65’30]

In many ways, this is what Naxos is all about: the delights of discovering obscure/neglected repertoire in performances that, while not shaking the Heavens, nevertheless are polished and assured. In the main, anyway.

I refer the reader to Jonathan Woolf’s review of this disc for background to the composer ( ). To describe the music, the first composer who sprang to mind was J. C. Bach. There is a galant element to this music that cannot fail to delight – possibly there is more Sturm und Drang than J. C. might be wont to allow, but the clouds tend to pass ’ere long.

Qian Zhou is a young violinist whose successes include the Long/Thibaud competition (Paris). She plays with all the confidence of a major competition winner, allied to the freshness of youthful discovery. The Toronto Camerata under the Irish conductor Kevin Mallon provide sterling support, buoyant and springy of rhythm and without fail perfectly balanced.

Occasionally Zhou can appear strained, especially in the upper register, and it is at these moments her tuning suffers. Nevertheless, her expressivity in slow movements is most convincing. The slow movement of the D major (Op. Posth) is surprisingly intense and almost gloomy. Saint-Georges’ writing is always gripping, setting up an impression of an independently musing soloist – a more agile episode forms contrast.

The G major Concerto contains a very emotional contrasting subject in the exposition of the first movement and a supremely jolly finale, played with charm if not too obvious glee.

Finally, another D major concerto (Op. 3 No. 1) reveals that Zhou can be truly expressive, particularly in the second movement cadenza. Interesting to end the disc on a non-flashy ‘Rondeau’ (in fact the whole concerto is predominantly lyrical).

Naxos gains brownie points by having Allan Bradley, the editor of the scores used, contribute the booklet notes. Unfortunately they promptly lose them by having the booklet discuss the works in reverse order to what we actually hear.

Worthy of investigation, certainly, if not quite the barrel of delight it could have been.

Colin Clarke

see also reviews by Patrick Waller and Jonathan Woolf


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