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Jonathan Woolf
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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata for Violin Solo No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 (1720) [20:28]
Sonata for Violin Solo No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 (1720) [21:58]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 10/1 ‘Devil’s Trill’ [12:44]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in A major, K.526 (1787) [18:03]
Christian Ferras (violin)
Pierre Barbizet (piano)
rec. 29 February 1956 (BWV 1003, Tartini), 12 February 1957 (Mozart), Frankfurt, Raum 1/D, Hessischer Rundfunk, 3 February 1960 (BWV 1005) Frankfurt, Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk
MELOCLASSIC MC 2001 [73:09]

All the music in this Meloclassic release was recorded in the Frankfurt radio studios between 1956 and 1960. Only the two Bach solo sonatas formed part of Christian Ferras’ commercial discography but fortunately supplementary material, such as this, exists to introduce listeners to those pieces that the short-lived Ferras never had the chance to record.
One such is Tartini’s staple, the Devil’s Trill Sonata. It comes from the same broadcast as the A minor Bach sonata, given on 29 February 1956. His regular accompanist, Pierre Barbizet, was with him. Ferras’ concern for dynamics and elegant phrase-tapering are audible almost from the start, as is his ability to vest his tone with requisite pathos. As a result the paragraphs which, in less nuanced hands, can be potentially repetitious are finely characterised and subtly contrasted. Deft bowing is an ally of dynamic gradients in this performance and a strongly athletic technique ensures a reading of considerable but elegant excitement. The two Bach solo sonatas can join his LP recording for Sine Ova Non Superba [SAS 2028/3]. Here elegance is accompanied by contrapuntal clarity but there is requisite crunch in his chording – especially in the A minor – to alert us to the vibrancy of his reading. The C major Sonata was recorded in February 1960 and again there is some biting articulation and a degree of abrasive playing that lifts it far above the ranks of the comfortable. This is especially true of the Fuga where not all the playing is above reproach but the intonation remains excellent.
He and Barbizet offered Frankfurt Radio Mozart’s A major sonata, K526. Their commercial recordings of K305 and K376 – on Decca LX3141 – are therefore happily augmented by this live reading. Neither Ferras nor the engineers fortunately presumed to boost his accompanying figures and he maintains a fine differentiation between ‘lead and follow’ throughout. The ensemble is watertight, as one might expect, and there’s a warmly communicative slow movement to enjoy. The finale has elegance and brio in equal measure, with attractive rise and fall, and plenty of rhythmic vitality.
As with so many of these German broadcasts the recorded sound is excellent for the time, and lacks problematic features. There are good notes with well reproduced small photographs of the protagonist of this disc. This is another valuable release from Meloclassic, a label that continues to show perceptive judgement in its releases – both as to artist and repertoire.
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank