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Paul PARAY (1886-1979)
The chamber music

Violin Sonata (1908) [23:42]
Cello Sonata (1921) [24:11]
String Quartet (1915-19) [29:13]
Marian Tanau (violin) (sonata)
Nadine Deleury (cello) (sonata)
Eduard Perrone (piano) (sonatas)
Varty Manouelian (violin 1); Marian Tanau (violin 2); James Van Valkenburg (viola); Nadine Deleury (cello) (quartet)
rec. Detroit, 26 Jan 2004. DDD
world premiere recordings


I am indebted to the ever-generous Jacques Kleyn for introducing me to the Paray recording series by Fr Eduard Perrone of Detroit's Assumption Grotto Church.

Paray is well-known in the circles of received ‘wisdom’ as a B-list conductor of French orchestral music. That he was also a composer became apparent with the Mercury recording of his St Joan Mass a work which was also on a Reference Recordings CD in harness with Paray’s First Symphony: two wonderfully successful exultant works.

Fr Perrone's Grotto series is not yet complete but he has already covered the songs and piano music as well as the two major choral-orchestral works. Here is the chamber music.

The 1908 Violin Sonata is one of those singingly graceful works whose surface us stirred by a Franckian turbulence of the spirit. There’s also a Tchaikovskian sweetness verging on the salon in the allegretto amabile and a more thrawn ardour in the Molto vivo which has its roots in the Mendelssohn violin concerto, early Fauré and perhaps mature Schumann. This is young man's music; Paray was 22 at the time. The work was dedicated to the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange who was also the dedicatee of the Ravel sonata. It's intriguing that Henryk Szeryng often played the Paray sonata. The work is played here with no holds barred. Tanau and Perrone are recorded in an acoustic which has a lively resonance. Listen to the gorgeous echo on the last snatched note.

The 1921 Cello Sonata represents the composer at one of the heights of his mastery, rejoicing in release from the dark years of imprisonment in Germany during the Great War. The sonata was written for and dedicated to Gerard Hekking (1879-1942). Hekking and the composer premiered it on 29 January 1920 at the Salle Éerard. The music instantly declares its maturity beside the epigone debt of the Violin Sonata - fresh as that is. Here the three movement 27 minute work is very broadly in the elegant camp of Fauré and Chausson. The music is lovingly laid out for the cello. While the work lacks the urgent climactic glories of the John Foulds Cello Sonata it shares that work’s lyrical fretwork. It also has its own lapping-breathing magic; witness the end of the first movement. The finale is alive with rhythmic vitality and engaging dialogue as well as evincing a real facility for writing great themes. Listen to the bell-like carousel at 3.30 and the delicate lacework at 3:40. After some Pierrot grotesquerie gestures from the piano the sonata ends with a triumphant victorious gesture.

The String Quartet is a relatively late affair by comparison with the other French quartets of that era: Franck,1889, Debussy, 1893 and Ravel, 1902-3. The quartet was written in Paray’s mind during his German incarceration at the Darmstadt camp. He wrote home of his utter misery and indeed on his return home he was depressed and physically weakened suffering lung problems and general debility. The quartet is dedicated to Lucien Capet (1873-1928) and was premiered at the Salle Gaveau on 18 May 1920 by an ad hoc quartet that included his friend, the cellist Hekking. In 1944 he rewrote and re-instrumented the quartet as a Symphony for Strings reviewed at and recorded on Grotto GP0006.

The quartet is in four movements. It is in a comparatively severe classical style when assessed against works such as the ecstatic examples by Bonnal and Ravel. It perhaps belongs as a development of the late Beethoven quartets and the string writing of Mendelssohn. A more emotional world is plumbed in the assez lent but we return to a sturdy Viennese joviality in the Vif and the final the Très Rhythme.

None of these performances are time-serving gap-fillers. Real passion and tenderness has gone into these essential revivals.

Stereo separation is superb and the recording is full of wonderfully engaging antiphonal effects and spatially projected dialogue .

When Fr Perrone finishes with Paray recordings I hope he will have the means and the appetite to revive the works of another French unknown Witkowski.

Should you wish to explore Paray's music his publisher is Editions Jobert of Paris.

Wonderfully life-enhancing chamber works by Paray here revived by the dedication and inspiration of Fr Perrone and his sympathetically inclined partners. I am sure that the spirit of Paray looks down in kindly thankfulness on these recordings. Let us hope that France will also recognise Fr. Perrone’s dedication to one of its sons.

Rob Barnett


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