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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata in A major, K526 (1787) [19:16]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Violin Sonata No.1 in D minor, Op.75 (1885) [22:32]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
Violin Sonata in C major (1926) [19:02]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata in G major (1923-27) [17:40]
Denise Soriano (violin)
Jeanne-Marie Darré (piano)
rec. live, 1958-60, Paris
MELO CLASSIC MC 2015 [78:33]

Denise Soriano (1916-2006) was a student of Jules Boucherit whom, many years later, and after a remarkable series of incidents, she was to marry – briefly, he hid her and numerous others in his house to escape the predatory French military police on the hunt for Jews. Her debut was in the mid-1930s and she soon began a series of important concert engagements in France, a period truncated by the War. After it she resumed her career, notably with a series of discs for Pathé and via a contract with Radiodiffusion Française. It was in 1956 that she married Boucherit – he was then nearly 80 and she 40. Gradually in the 1960s she taught more than she was to pursue a solo career, though she continued to appear on the concert stage, not least with her quartet. Her last public performance was in 2004.
She had long been associated with Mozart. I know of her 78-rpm recordings of the Third Concerto, with Boucherit conducting, and the so-called Seventh with Munch – both used Enescu’s cadenzas and both were made for Pathé in 1933 – though I’ve never heard them and wonder if they have ever been transferred to CD. She also recorded two sonatas, K.378 and, with Magda Tagliafero, K.454. So it is unsurprising that she is represented by a Mozart sonata in this release from Melo Classic, which has excavated four sonatas from her Paris broadcasts, given between 1958 and 1960. Fortunately it’s not one she recorded – it’s the A major, K.526 and as with all the sonatas she has the elevated musicianship of pianist Jeanne-Marie Darré to keep her company. The performance is bracing, spirited and buoyant, with excellent ensemble. Her intonation is fine, though her bright sound can be quite biting, as was the case with quite a few French violinists of this period. A touch of acerbity keeps comfortable charm and ennui at bay, however, and whilst she takes time to get into the slow movement and has a few co-ordination problems in the finale, where some untidiness is audible, her playing is, as ever, full of life. Jacques Thibaud was a great admirer of Soriano and would have enjoyed her vitality, though his Mozartian conception was very much more suave.
She is equally tonally bracing in the Saint-Saëns sonata though the recording, and perhaps Soriano’s tone production too, together conspire to render the playing somewhat unrelieved from time to time. Tending strongly toward the astringent end of the French tonal spectrum it could be argued that aspects of this sonata suit her resinous drive very well – the second of the two movements in particular where the music’s moto perpetuo element is well conveyed. Her fiery control is not immaculate, and the tone can be pinched, but the drive is unarguable. She had recorded Reynaldo Hahn’s 1926 Violin Sonata on a Pathé 78 set but here she is with it again in this February 1959 broadcast. It’s a work of ceaseless songful lyricism, more an extended chanson than a real sonata perhaps, but strangely the lack of ingratiating bloom in Soriano’s tone creates a valid tension between elements. Apart from a sticky bow or two in the finale the playing is excellent, and it’s noticeable she notches up her vibrato at the lovely start of the finale. The Ravel (January 1960) suits her rather cool outlook, and her brightly projected tone is a good foil for it. She subtly underplays the Blues movement – violinists who indulge it invariably come unstuck – though it’s not the jazziest you’ll hear.
Soriano, like Jeanne Gautier and other players of that generation, was an important presence in French musical life. It’s right that her art should be celebrated in so thoughtful a way as this, presented in a digipack with notes in English. There’s presumably a lot more Soriano in the archives, so let’s hope her Fauré, Milhaud and Brahms – for starters – can be restored.
Jonathan Woolf