Joseph-Guy ROPARTZ (1864-1955)
Violin Sonata (1907) [29:31]
Prélude, Marine, Chanson (1928) [12:31]
Devy Erlih (violin): Maurice Bureau (piano)
Quintette Pierre Jamet (Pierre Jamet (harp); Gaston Crunelle (flute); René Bas (violin); Georges Blanpain (viola); Robert Krabansky (cello))
rec. 1956
Devy Erlih (1928-2012), whose recent death in a street car accident saddened so many admirers, was a violinists’ violinist, and something of a whispered secret amongst LP collectors. He was also a fine musician, and an equally influential teacher.
Almost immediately after his first prize-winning experience at the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud competition in 1955 he was courted by recording companies. Ducretet-Thomson had the inspired idea to tape him in Ropartz’s 1907 Violin Sonata, which I am sure had never before been recorded. It hasn’t had that many outings since, it must be said. It was coupled on LP with a lovely reading of the Prélude, Marine, Chanson for flute, violin, viola, cello and harp, played by that excellent ensemble led by, and named after, harpist Pierre Jamet. This is what Forgotten Records has restored, and bravo for that.
The sonata is a slightly odd one, but for those sympathetic to Ropartz’s idiom, it proves delightful. The opening piano statements lead one to expect a violinistic outburst akin to that in Vitali’s Chaconne, but whilst something of the baroque shade hangs over parts of the sonata it’s in no way a pastiche-drenched work. The piano’s rich chording is a notable feature, so too a Franckian inheritance and Erlih and his commanding colleague Maurice Bureau respond with verve and comparable passion. Given that the harmonies in the slow movement are so beautiful, and offer such rich opportunities for tonal expressivity, it’s surprising that more fiddlers haven’t taken up this work. Given, too, the chances for folksy declamation in the finale, and one has a winning balance on one’s hands. Erlih responds with youthful charm and warmth and a deal of refinement, and the duo winds down toward the final paragraph with wonderfully calibrated assurance. Maybe duos shy away from this quiet ending, as soloists do from the similarly sunset-glow finale of the Delius Violin Concerto. A mistake, I think. This is a lovely work, one that will reward the sympathetic performer, and the inquisitive listener.
Written over two decades later, the Prélude, Marine, Chanson is firmly in Debussy’s lineage but it has a succinct and diaphanous beauty that makes it a very good disc mate for the Sonata. The clarity of the writing, and its suggestive lyricism, is conveyed with tactile engagement by the first class ensemble led by harpist Pierre Jamet. On no account, though, overlook the warm-toned contributions of the violist Georges Blanpain, not least in the Chanson.
With an excellently engineered transfer, this is clearly another winner from this fascinating label.
Jonathan Woolf
Another winner from this fascinating label.