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Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-63)
Concerto funèbre (1939, rev. 1959) [22:03]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 (1963) [19:08]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite Italienne (1933) [18:05]
Tango (1940) arr. Samuel Dushkin [2:48]
Annie Jodry (violin)
Ensemble Stringendo/Jean Thorel
Hasmig Surmelian (piano)
rec. live, 1990/2000, Eglise Saint-Julien-Le-Pauvre, Paris; La Grange Dîmière, Fresnes

The violinist Annie Jodry is a name I am unfamiliar with. The accompanying booklet notes (in French only) by Alexis Galpérine inform us that she was born in 1935 in Béziers, France. In the 1950s she studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Marcel Reynal and was a prize-winner in Geneva. Celebrated for a remarkable bowing technique, she made a notable impact on French violin playing. As a teacher, she was generous but demanding. She now lives in retirement.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann composed his four movement Concerto funèbre in 1939 and substantially revised it in 1959, four years before his death. Originally carrying the title ‘Musik der Trauer’ (Music of Mourning) it assumed the present title at the time of revision. It was premiered in 1940 in St. Gallen, Switzerland, by the violinist Karl Neracher. The Concerto was composed as a protest against the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and is testimony to the composer’s fierce opposition to the Nazis, with the composer quoting Czech chorales in the music. Wolfgang Schneiderhan was one of the work’s most notable advocates.

The Concerto is surprisingly well-served on CD and I originally got to know it from the Gertler/Ančerl recording on Supraphon. Jodry’s live concert performance from 1990 successfully evokes the elegiac flavour of the music. The doleful mood of the Introduction is captured to good effect, setting the scene for an intensely anguished Adagio, where the violin’s heart-wrenching narrative truly paints a bleak and desolate landscape. This echoes the sombre mood of contemporary world events. Jodry brings energy, power and rhythmic exactitude to the third movement. In the finale peace and tranquillity reign, with an air of total resignation. Jean Thorel and the Ensemble Stringendo offer the soloist accomplished support.

Ten years after the taping of the Hartmann Concerto, Jodry gave a concert in the Eglise Saint-Julien-Le-Pauvre, Paris with pianist Hasmig Surmelian. Together they tackled Alfred Schnittke’s Violin Sonata no. 1. The composer wrote three sonatas for this instrumental combination — there is also a two-movement ‘student’ sonata from 1955, only discovered after his death. Jodry and her partner prove themselves worthy advocates of this little known music, with an adventurous, like-minded approach. It is a carefully worked-out interpretation, with meticulous attention to detail. They negotiate the changing moods of the sonata deftly. I love the rhythmic spikiness they achieve in the finale.

The players then turn their attention to Stravinsky and his 'Suite Italienne', a vamped up version of Pergolesi’s music, reworking music from the ballet Pulcinella, arranged by the composer in collaboration with the violinist Samuel Dushkin in 1933. The Suite consists of six attractive movements, an amalgam of baroque elegance and the angular rhythmic patterns of the neo-classical style. The lyrical charm of the Serenata and Gavotta in this performance have hardly been bettered. It’s an immensely attractive work, with Jodry and Surmelian gracing the score with freshness and spontaneity. Rhythms are never heavy but light and buoyant. The result is a pleasing listen. A charming Tango, arranged by Dushkin, completes the recital.

These are top-notch performances in first-class sound. In both concerts, the engineers have succeeded admirably in attaining ideal balance between all concerned. The audience are respectful throughout, and applause is retained following the Concerto. However, for me it is the Hartmann Concerto which is outstanding, and certainly one of the finest interpretations of this work that I have ever heard.

Stephen Greenbank



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