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Joseph-Guy ROPARTZ (1864-1955)
Complete Sonatas - Volume 1
Violin Sonata No.2 (1918) [32:07]
Sonatine for flute and piano (1931) [14:37]
Cello Sonata No.2 (1919) [23:12]
Nicolas Dautricourt (violin)
Juliette Hurel (flute)
Raphaël Pidoux (cello)
François Kerdoncuff (piano)
rec. Vincennes, Coeur de Ville. August 2013 and Paris, Salle Colonne, September 2012 (Sonatine)
TIMPANI 1C1214 [70:13]

Ropartz has begun to loom larger in the catalogue of late and Timpani’s disc, noted as volume one in its complete recording of his sonatas, shows how a thoughtful programmatic eye can be cast on his chamber music. The earliest of the three works in the disc is the Violin Sonata No.2, completed in 1918 and suffused with reminiscences of Breton music. It’s a large-scale sonata, lasting over half an hour in this performance. Unusually, perhaps, given the date of composition, it’s full of fulsome and lyrically verdant writing partly evocative in that respect of Fauré. The more pensive material is well subsumed into the fabric of the writing and leads directly and happily in to that Breton folklore of which he was so practised an exponent. The folk fiddling episodes are full of earthy delight before Ropartz unleashes, in the long slow movement, a veiled melancholy strongly reminiscent of another of those unavoidable lodestars for French composers, namely Franck. Ropartz captures the irregularity of Breton melody perfectly in this work, and alternates the carefree Fauré with the lyric poet. The result is a work of vitality and excitement.
 
The following year came the Cello Sonata No.2, another three-movement work with a disarming way with slow material. Superficially the indications of lent in each movement, whether preceded by ‘très’ or followed by ‘et calme’ might indicate a work of too great an intimacy and too slow in tempi. But actually Ropartz manages to vary the slower music imaginatively, the sonata’s opening having an affecting lyricism, the slow movement being a song without words, its melancholy subtly voiced, and the finale’s slow section is the introduction to the excitingly animated closing section of the work. The Sonatine is the only non-string work here, composed for flute and piano in 1931. Rightly, the notes call this a ‘luminous’ work. Dedicated to René Le Roy, this takes us beyond the string sonatas’ Fauréan inheritance to a more abstract, quasi-improvisational world, fluent, fluid, avian - its calm beauty not quite masking the order that allows such seemingly effortless freedom to evolve.
 
All four performers put across these works with finesse and great sympathy for the idiom. It’s a delight to listen to them, especially in the well-judged recording venues. Michel Fleury is a Ropartz partisan and makes high claims for these chamber works. I think listeners would agree that these performances make a splendid case for them.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank