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Fantaisies d'opéra
Wolfgang MARSCHNER (b.1926)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Scène de l’Annonce de la Mort, La Walkyrie
(transcr. Marillier (2013)) [18:30]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Réminiscences de Don Juan, d'après l’opéra de Mozart (transcr. Marillier (2013)) [15:26]
Léo Marillier (violin)
Alexandre Lory (piano)
rec. June-July 2013, January 2014
Studio Forgotten Records, Rennes, France

There is no doubt, on the evidence of this CD, that Léo Marillier is a very talented young artist. As well as being a fine violinist, his gifts as a composer/transcriber exhibit great promise. His literary skills - he has written the programme notes for the booklet – show a intelligent and analytical mind and what Alexis Galpérine describes in his liner contribution as ‘an insatiable appetite for music, together with a complete mastery of the written style, but without sacrificing his voracious enthusiasm for the instrument’.
Originating from Provins, France, Marillier began his musical studies in his home town with the piano and cello, before later settling with the violin. He played in his first concert aged nine, later going to Paris to study at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. It was there that he became acquainted with the pianist Alexandre Lory, the accompanist on this CD. At the Conservatoire they formed a partnership, the fruits of which took the form of a series of chamber music concerts. Presently he studies with Miriam Fried in Boston, USA. With several prizes under his belt, he has been invited to play at Festivals, including Menton and the Festival des Arcs.
Marillier here makes his debut as a recording artist, with Opera Fantasies being the theme. As well as two of his own transcriptions, he gives us the Wieniawski Faust-Fantasie and the Vampir-Variationen by Wolfgang Marschner, another piece with a demonic flavour.
Vampir-Variationen was composed in 2009 by the German composer and violinist Wolfgang Marschner, and premiered by Marillier with the composer at the piano. The violinist has since taken it into his repertoire. The work is based on themes from the opera Der Vampyr, composed in 1827 by Heinrich Marschner, one of Wolfgang’s ancestors. Marillier sustains the narrative throughout the work’s many dramas, and displays great imagination. With many double-stop passages, his intonation is always pristine.
Henryk Wieniawski’s Faust-Fantasie is the only work I am familiar with. I have always enjoyed the recording made by Ruggiero Ricci, who excelled in this repertoire and who I had the good fortune to hear in concert on two occasions. Like Ricci, Marillier has mastered many of the virtuosic techniques required for this sort of music. Clear, well-focused harmonics, ricochet bowing and beauty of tone are especially evident. This is rhythmically alert playing, energized and vital. Lyrical sections are delivered with passionate, ardent fervour. Rubato is always subtly applied. The waltz-theme at the end is delightful. A performance of this fantasy by Marillier can be viewed on YouTube.
The other two works featured are transcriptions by the violinist himself. The Wagner is a literal read-across, Marillier declaring that ‘not a note of Wagner’s work has been changed in my transcription of this scene, but I have redefined and clarified the balance of certain themes’. The Réminiscences de Don Juan by Franz Liszt is a tribute to the composer who ‘may be said to have reached the summit of operatic fantasia composition’. Marillier, who seems to be following in this tradition, shows great resourcefulness and flair in his transcriptions. Underpinning his work is a well-read and literary background, as well as a sense of history. Both transcriptions reveal the violinist’s fascination with the human voice by accentuating the vocal characteristics of the violin. He is at present working on a transcription commission by Harvard University of a work by Monteverdi.
Forgotten Records, famed for the restoration and release of historic recordings, explain that these recordings fall into their remit in that they represent music which has either fallen by the wayside, or where there is no alternative recording. Recorded in the label’s own studio in Rennes, France, the balance between violin and piano is ideal. The sound achieved is intimate and warm.
Marillier’s violinistic ability, musicianship and artistry single him out as one of the up-and-coming talents of the future. All I can say is - watch this space.
Stephen Greenbank