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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Romance for violin and orchestra No.1 in G Op.40 (c.1802) [9:45]
Romance for violin and orchestra No.2 in F Op.50 (c.1798) [8:20]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Poème for violin and orchestra, Op.25 (1896) [17:38]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Danzas españolas: Romanze andaluza (1878-82) [4:43]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Gaetano Pugnani [5:02]
Christian Ferras (violin)
Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Ludwig (Beethoven)
Orchestre Radio-Symphonique de la Radiodiffusion Française/Eugène Bigot (Chausson)
Ernest Lush (piano: Sarasate, Kreisler)
rec. November 1948 (Sarasate, Kreisler), London and January 1955 (Beethoven) Hamburg and November 1955 (Chausson), Paris
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR570 [45:33]

The relative ubiquity of the recordings of Christian Ferras, notably his association with Karajan, and his legacy of concerto and indeed sonata recordings, may lead one to wonder whether this rather short-timed disc offers any prospective gold in its hills. The answer superficially is no, but on closer inspection Ferras collectors should certainly note one important fact. The recording here of Chausson’s Poème is not the expected one, which is the Decca LP in which the French violinist was accompanied by the Belgian National Orchestra and Georges Sebastian. This Forgotten Records performance, however, is a live one, taped in November 1955 with Eugène Bigot directing the Orchestre Radio-Symphonique de la Radiodiffusion Française. Both conductors are idiomatic interpreters and direct with considerable sympathy and Ferras plays, on both occasions, with stylistic and tonal assurance, malleable but expressive, and assured in his vibrato usage and powers of projection. Where the Decca LP scores however - it was coupled incidentally with the Ravel Tzigane and the Honegger solo violin sonata - is in the more sympathetic recording level. The live tape is recorded at too high a level and is chilly, imparting a bit of an edge to the performance. But if you can live with that, then I strongly suspect Ferras’s playing will be to your liking.
 
The disc traces recordings made from 1948 to 1955. The earliest are two 78 sides recorded in London with the doyen of British instrumental accompanists, Ernest Lush. The repertoire is hardly novel. Sarasate’s Romanze andaluza could be a touch more sultry, but Ferras vests it with refined elegance. I could have done with more excitement in the Kreisler. Which leaves the Telefunken LP of the Beethoven Romances with the thoughtful and sensitive conductor Leopold Ludwig. These are very tricky works to put across - they often seem to resist interpretative niceties - but Ferras does quite well by them. Leopold also encourages the brass in the Romance in G and marshals the orchestral pizzicati well.
 
The nugget of gold here is obviously the Chausson and Ferras admirers will certainly find it attractive, despite the sonics. The 78 transfers are quite good and will open a perspective to his immediate post-war playing style even in jaded repertoire such as this.
 
Jonathan Woolf

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