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Availability
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata in G major (1923-27) [16:02]
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rhapsody No. 1 Sz. 86 (1928) [9:55]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Suite in G major [10:23]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertante (1931-32) [15:10]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy in C major, D.934 (1827) [22:14]
Michèle Auclair (violin)
Jacqueline Bonneau (piano) (Ravel); Jean-Claude Ambrosini (piano) (Bartók); Geneviève Joy (piano) (Telemann, Stravinsky, Schubert)
rec. Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, 25 November 1958 (Ravel); 23 September 1960 (Bartók) Radio Studio Recordings; Bordeaux, Grand Théâtre, Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, 10 April 1967 (Telemann, Stravinsky, Schubert), live.
MELOCLASSIC MC2014 [73:32]

It’s good to see that more of Michèle Auclair’s performances, both studio and – as here – live are being made available. I’ve written about her before in the context of commercial recordings, principally on Forgotten Records in which reviews some biographical information is noted, so it leaves me free to comment on these French broadcasts made between 1958 and 1967, which was shortly before the accident that ended her public performing career.
 
Two of the pieces in the disc are established parts of her discography. The Ravel was recorded with Jacqueline Bonneau, as here, in 1957, a performance transferred by Forgotten Records FR553. Given that they were performed about a year apart one wouldn’t expect too many interpretative differences, other perhaps than a slightly greater sense of spontaneity in the live reading. That is very much the case. One added and pleasing advantage, however, is that the radio broadcast is rather better balanced than the studio recording had been. Auclair makes one especially quick but voluptuous slide in the first movement and as I wrote in my review of her Tchaikovsky Concerto she is ‘energetic, abrasive and charged with intensity’. The parodic elements in the slow movement are well conveyed and the pizzicato episodes equally so. Her bowing has a razory bite to it in the finale and this abrasive quality is excitingly vivid and never patrician.
 
The Bartók Rhapsody No.1 with Jean Claude Ambrosini comes from another Paris recital given a couple of years later. It’s a work that suits her tonal qualities very nicely – one couldn’t easily imagine Thibaud having essayed it, to cite just one. In both the Lassu – brittle, exciting - and the Friss, where she finds plenty of resinous drive, this is an example of her stylistic confidence. The Telemann is something of a novelty and was taped in Bordeaux in the recital given in April 1967 with pianist Geneviève Joy. The recording here is a touch ‘windy’ – there are occasional gusts in the aural spectrum and I’m not quite sure what they are, but they’re not especially problematic. We hear her tuning up and the opening announcement. She takes a minute or so to get into top form but thereafter the playing is very characterful and engaging and her rapport with Joy, witty and elegant, impressive. Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant is another piece to suit her tonal arsenal and she is less dry-toned than Samuel Dushkin, outstanding though he was as an interpreter of this work. The final work is again from this recital and, like the Ravel, is one she recorded in the studio – with Joy, in fact, namely Schubert’s Fantasy in C major. It’s a quirk of Auclair’s discography that she left behind a relatively large number of Schubert recordings - the three Sonatinas, the Rondo brillante, and Duo Sonata D574 – whereas elsewhere the return was pretty sparse. The Fantasy is not an easy work to bring off and requires solid ensemble and a sure sense of the work’s rise and fall over the course of its single-span twenty-two (or so) minute length. Auclair and Joy are successful here and show a real affinity for Schubert’s syntax.
 
With first-class notes in English, this digipak will strongly appeal to admirers of the Gallic violin tradition in post-war years, a lineage to which Auclair assuredly belongs.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank