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
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.
see also review
by Jonathan Woolf/Kevin Sutton