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In The Shade of Forests
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Impressions d’enfance Op.28 (1940) [22.01]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane – Rapsodie de concert for violin and luthéal (original version) (1924) [10.41]
Sonata Op. posthumous (1897) [12.37]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata (1916-17) [13.14]
Nocturne et Scherzo (1882) – re-adaptation by Phillipe Graffin [4.11]
Il pleure dans mon Coeur – transcribed Arthur Hartmann in 1908 and 1943 [3.04]
La fille aux cheveux de lin - transcribed Arthur Hartmann in 1910 [2.27]
Minstrels - transcribed by Claude Debussy in 1914 [2.22]
Beau Soir - transcribed Arthur Hartmann in 1941 [2.14]
Philippe Graffin (violin)
Claire Désert (piano and luthéal)
Recorded at Doopsegezinde Kerk, Deventer and Musical Instrument Museum (Tzigane) September 2004
AVIE AV2059 [73.11]

Avie Records

Given that two of my colleagues were fortunate enough to receive this release around a month before I did, there seems little that I could add to their perceptive reviews. Indeed, I could make short work of this and simply echo their recommendation of it, which I do.

Readers of Part 1 of my anniversary tribute to Enescu last month will be only too aware of my views on the competition faced by this recording of Impressions d’enfance, which perhaps explains why I jumped straight to the Ravel Tzigane.

Another reason was my curiosity about the luthéal. The history of music is littered with instruments whose active lives have long since ceased and now find themselves consigned to museums – how wonderful therefore that this one emerges to make such a strong impression and fully justifying the reasoning for its use. True, a large part of the credit must be shared by Graffin and Désert, whose partnership and single vision of the work are immediately apparent. But the instrument itself makes just as instant a claim on the ear. Had I not read the excellent note on it, I would have been convinced that at least four keyboard instruments, though maybe not all pianos, of various ages and states of repair were used. Any other recording of the Tzigane will seem somewhat approximate next to this – it pulls you in to the gypsy-flavoured world so completely, and hauntingly afterwards lives on in the imagination.

With Ravel’s posthumous sonata, and indeed the rest of the disc, we continue most definitely in the company of a true violin and piano partnership. Each reading is persuasive by turns of its merits, large or small. The Debussy tracks, his complete works for violin and piano, succeed in giving an amazingly broad picture within the space of a mere six works. There is the sense here that not a single one could be left out without missing an essential aspect of the composer. The placing of the sonata after four shorter pieces helps to ensure that these are not overshadowed by the sun-dappled impression it leaves. As with other Debussy tracks, ending with Hartmann’s transcription of Beau Soir is a gentle nod from one violinist to another, and one that is not out of place.

So, what of the Enescu? Those that have invested in the Sherban Lupu (my personal favourite), Leonidas Kavakos, Menuhin or Mihaela Martin can still be happy with their choices. But such is Enescu’s strength that yet again in Graffin’s reading of the score I found new things to absorb me. He gainfully gets inside the idiomatic maze that Enescu lays before him, takes technical hurdles in his stride, and to a large degree succeeds in making these delightful reflections of an imaginary childhood deep in Romania spring to life. Désert gives her all it seems to the piano part and projects it assuredly, full of half colours and sonorities.

If my final preference is still for Sherban Lupu and Valentin Gheorghiu on Electrecord, then it is by a slim margin. This version nonetheless does valiant service to Enescu’s cause and provides rich rewards indeed, as it does in respect of Ravel and Debussy. The Avie success story continues apace, and long may it continue.

Evan Dickerson

see also review by Jonathan Woolf/Kevin Sutton

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