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French and Belgian Violin Sonatas
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata in G minor (1916-17) [12:19]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Violin Sonata in G major (1923-27) [17:03]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A major Op. 13 (1875-76) [23:17] ¹
Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor Op.108  (1916) [21:52] ¹
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata in A major (1886) [27:17] ²
Guillaume LEKEU (1870-1894)
Violin Sonata in G major (1892) [31:41] ³
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Rêve d’enfant, Op. 14 (c.1902) [4:01] ³
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Ballade et Polonaise Op.38 (c.1860) [11:35] ³
Arthur Grumiaux (violin)
István Hajdu, Paul Crossley ¹, Gyorgy Sebok ²,
Dinorah Varsi ³ (piano)
rec. Kleine Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam November 1977 (Faure), Henry Wood Hall, London, May 1978 (Franck), La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, December 1973 (Lekeu, Ysaÿe, Vieuxtemps), Bachzaal, Amsterdam, July 1962 (Debussy, Ravel)
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 442 8299 [72:43 + 77:12]


This is something of a self-recommending collection but surely most Grumiaux admirers will have much of it. In addition a large amount of programme juggling has been going on at Philips of late and many of these recordings have been doing the rounds in various CD guises either singly on in Grumiaux boxes. Still, for those for whom this is terra incognita or who will alight on less often reissued recordings – the Dinorah Varsi accompanied Lekeu for example – this will prove a more-than-handy double CD set.
 
The Fauré recordings with Paul Crossley were LP staples and roughly coincided with the pianist’s cycle of the complete solo works of the composer.  The contours of this performance of the A major differ hardly at all from the violinist’s traversal back in 1962 with István Hajdu. Obviously there is some minor difference in terms of phraseology, Crossley is perhaps the more intuitively natural Fauréan, and of course the recording is very much more up-to-date. We have nothing to measure the companion sonata by, as this is Grumiaux’s only recording of the E minor. Both men play this memorably and with tremendous insight and perceptive awareness. In their hands, though it’s still “late” Fauré it doesn’t sound at all problematic late Fauré – in fact it’s hard to believe there’s any “problem” with his late idiom when the playing is so stylish. As with the A major Grumiaux made an earlier recording of the Franck with Hajdu. This time he reprises it with another regular sonata partner Gyorgy Sebok. The performance sits securely in the best Franco-Belgian ones – which means the tradition of Grumiaux’s teacher, Alfred Dubois. Rather amazingly the pupil outstrips the teacher in terms of absolute velocity, a rare example where the balance of expressive weight adjusts between the 1931 and the 1978 recordings.  
 
The second disc opens with the big Lekeu sonata. This is the only recording I know in his entire discography in which Grumiaux undertook a significant and radical revision in his approach. In his Castagnone accompanied disc, which is more than acceptable on its own terms, he favoured far broader tempi than in his 1973 remake with Dinorah Varsi. It’s a big work but Grumiaux nevertheless trims four minutes off his earlier effort, radically overhauling every movement in the process. Of the two pianists I tend to favour Castagnone’s pianism but I do certainly prefer the tightened tempi of the 1973 recording. The Debussy Sonata with Hajdu is very similar to the 1955 Castagnone – wonderfully vibrant, and here not as fast as Dubois and Maas in 1936 (Biddulph). He only recorded the Ravel once. It’s a distinguished reading – in fine style, not souped up at all in the Blues, respecting the true stylistic parameters of the music, and at all times bringing his aristocratic but never aloof tonal qualities to bear. Ysaÿe’s Rêve d’enfant is a real charmer – again an only recording for him – and the Vieuxtemps gets an ebullient, rhythmically vital reading; once again this is the only extant recording Grumiaux left us.
 
Central recommendations then for this Franco-Belgian repertoire. You can never go wrong with Grumiaux – it’s just a question of how much you have, and how much more you need.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 



 


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