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Louise FARRENC (1804-1875)
Nonette for Strings and Winds in E-flat Major, Op. 38 [29:10]
Melodie in A-flat Major [2:20]
Variations Concertantes for Violin and Piano, Op. 20 [9:47]
From Etudes, Op. 26: No. 17 in e-flat minor [1:26]; No. 18 in d-flat major [3:08]
Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 44 [28:34]
Philippe Bernold, flute; François Leleux, oboe; Roman Guylot, clarinet; André Cazalet, horn; Gilbert Audin, bassoon; Guillaume Sutre, violin; Miguel da Silva, viola; François Salque, cello; Vincent Pasquier, double-bass; Brigitte Engerer, piano; Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, piano
Recorded in concert at the Auditorium of the Louvre, 5 and 26 January, 2005 as a part of a cycle of concerts featuring the music of Farrenc and Clara Schumann.
NAÏVE V 5033 [74:31]

A gifted pianist and composer as well as a much respected pedagogue, Louise Farrenc was a widely recognized musician in her day. She ranks amongst the elite in the small club of nineteenth century women who rose to prominence as musicians. This group included amongst others Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Henselt. It is perhaps a sad by-product of the era that after her death in 1875 the combination of political upheaval in nineteenth century France, and the fact that she was not, like her two famous colleagues, attached in some way to an equally famous male led to her rather quick lapse into obscurity.

Thankfully, we live now in an era in which musicians and record producers seem hell-bent on recording every note of music ever written. Consequently, amongst the loads of dreck, we occasionally land on a composer such as this one who had something interesting to say, and the technical and creative tools at her disposal to say it well.

Louise Farrenc was from all accounts a fine pianist, and her works reflect a constant exploration of ways to express herself through that instrument. This disc presents a nice little compendium of her chamber and piano works, and is a welcome addition to the repertoire. Opening with the Nonette for strings and winds, this is a work that owes a great deal to the serenades of Mozart both structurally and melodically. It also paves the way for what Fauré would later accomplish in terms of the expansion of the traditional harmonic language. Although substantial in length, it never runs out of ideas and Farrenc writes in such a way that keeps the listenerís attention throughout. The performance is of the first order and this group of soloists comes together to form a taut, well-balanced and most expressive ensemble.

The solo piano works are not nearly as meaty as the two chamber pieces, with the exception of the second of the two samples from the Opus 26 etudes, which could easily rival Chopin in its scope of emotion and its technical demands.

The clarinet trio is another fine work of substance, hinting at the influence of Brahms with its sweeping melodies and grand expressive gestures from the piano. Again, the ensemble is first rate. I do wish however, that the applause at the end of the performance had been edited out. Although I greatly enjoy live performances, I have always been of the opinion that applause tarnishes a recording, and it makes me jealous that I missed out on the live experience. And, since the applause was trimmed from all the other works on these live concert recordings, it was a bit of a shock to hear the audience burst in after this excellent performance. Said audience was thankfully quiet during the music itself though.

Program notes are a bit cursory. I would have liked to have had a bit more analysis and description of the music. Naïve, as usual, have created a beautiful package presentation for this disc, and the brief biographies of this group of artists were appreciated.

This is a highly recommendable disc, and a welcome set of additions to the repertoire. This recording did exactly what any good recording is supposed to do, which is to entice me to seek out more music by this fine and unjustly neglected composer. Start here and enjoy the exploration!

Kevin Sutton




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