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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite Italienne (c.1933) [18:31]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Baal Shem: No.2 Nigun (1923) [6:33]
Jean MARTINON (1910-1976)
Sonatine No.5, Op.32 No.1 for solo violin (1942) [8:18]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Four Pieces, Op.17, JSkat 42 (1900) [17:09]
Jean Fournier (violin)
André Collard (piano)
rec. 1956, Paris

The LP recordings made by Jean Fournier, brother of the better-known Pierre, have happily been revived over the last few years by two companies in particular; Pristine Audio and Forgotten Records. The former label has sifted through the excellent trio discs with Janigro and Badura-Skoda made for Westminster LP but Forgotten Records has specialised in his sonata recordings. Fortunately I’ve already auditioned his Fauré and Florent Schmitt. Now here’s a chance to catch up with his non-sonata but duo sides made in 1956 with the authoritative collaboration of pianist André Collard.

Whether because of a fortunate microphone placement in the studio or, more likely, because of his very particular tonal qualities, Fournier always seems to have avoided the razory aesthetic that bedevilled many string sessions in Paris in the 1950s and early 60s. He lacks that acerbic, resinous attack of many French contemporaries, remaining warm-toned and elegantly textured even in Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne. Where others have pursued a more knowingly ironic agenda, Fournier plays it with respectful richness. There are some especially assured double-stops, precision of intonation, and a finely calibrated approach to all six movements. You won’t find Samuel Dushkin’s ingenious, sometimes even crude approach, but you will find a rich Gallic take. For Bloch’s Nigun – well-argued as to mood and tempo – one again finds the music aligned more with stylised elegance than with earthy folkloric elements, which is interesting to hear. Fournier was a committed exponent of the violin music of Jean Martinon, and plays his solo Sonatine, a serious, long-breathed eight-minute work. There is a more pungent central section, with folk hues, surrounded by two outer sections that invite decoratively varied playing, all of which Fournier is a master performer. Finally there is Josef Suk’s oft-performed Four Pieces, played with a strong sense of characterisation, even at the cost of rather relaxed tempi in the Appassionato second movement – where he relishes the slow B section to a great degree - and the Un poco triste that follows it. Despite the lowered temperature in two of the movements, though, one can savour his lovely, singing tone throughout and his dashing way in the Burleska, with pinpoint articulation and lashings of élan.

Listening at high level a small amount of LP rumble is audible, though it’s part and parcel of the original Vega LP recording. The restoration is excellent and allows one to appreciate the Fournier-Collard partnership without impediment. Now, let me make a plea to Forgotten Records: how about restoring the Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle Fournier made with Ginette Doyen? It’s hard to find, and would cap this label’s devotion to Fournier splendidly.

Jonathan Woolf