Édouard LALO (1823-1892)
Concertante Works for Violin, Cello and Piano
Symphonie espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 21 [33:46]
Guitare for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28 [3:34]
Fantaisie norvégienne for Violin and Orchestra [14:26]
Romance-sérénade for Violin and Orchestra [7:24]
Fantaisie-ballet for Violin and Orchestra (From Namouna) [10:29]
Introduction et scherzo for Violin and Orchestra (from Namouna) [07:09]
Violin Concerto in F Major, Op. 20 [28:49]
Cello Concerto in D Minor [29:33]
Concerto russe for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 29 [31:08]
Piano Concerto in F minor [22:10]
Soloists of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel:
Elina Buksha (violin) (Op. 29); Ori Epstein (cello) (Cello Concerto); Lorenzo Gatto (violin) (Op.21); Nathanaël Gouin (piano) (Piano Concerto); Woo Hyung Kim (violin) (Opp. 20, 28); Vladyslava Luchenko (violin) (the rest)
Liège Royal Philharmonic/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
rec. Liège Philharmonic Hall, Belgium, 26, 31 January, 6-14 July 2015
ALPHA 233 [3 CDs: 76:50 + 58:25 + 53:21]

For a long time Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole was a mainstay of many a concert programme. I can remember seeing it performed live in Liverpool on more than one occasion in the late 1970s, but it then seemed to fall out of fashion. Performances became few and far between, and it seemed to be a similar story with recordings. Thankfully, since the mid-2000s this seems to have begun to change with a series of the orchestral works on BIS (CD1296 ~ CD1680 ~ CD1890), and then, more recently, excellent recordings of the piano trios on Hyperion (CDA68113) and the complete songs on Aparte (AP110). Long may this continue.

I have always held that Lalo was the composer of two orchestral masterpieces: the Symphonie Espagnole of 1874, and the Cello Concerto of 1877. The other concertante works just lack enough of the creative spark to make them stand out from the crowd. It is all the more welcome therefore that Alpha has seen fit to present all these works in a single set with a group of young and up-and-coming soloists. They are under the direction of Jean-Jacques Kantorow, himself no stranger to this music, having been the violin soloist on Bis.

The set opens with the old warhorse, Symphonie Espagnole, which here, as with all the works featured on the Bis series apart from the Piano Concerto, is given a slower and well measured performance. Lorenzo Gatto proves an adept interpreter. His performance might lack a little of the fire of Kantorow’s own, but it still packs the excitement. Ori Epstein also proves a thoughtful interpreter of the Cello Concerto, a work that I have always thought deserved more recognition than it gets. This is a reading of great spirit and control, certainly the equal of, if not finer than, Torleif Thedéen on Bis.

Of the other works included in this set, the Concerto Russe for Violin and Orchestra comes the closest to the heights of the Symphonie Espagnole. It was composed in 1879, and at over half an hour is one of the longest works in the set. It is a differently virtuosic piece in comparison to the Symphonie, with its themes lacking the Latin fire that allows the soloist to shine in the more famous work. Once again, the tempo is slower than on Bis, but this gives Elina Buksha time to articulate the solo passages beautifully.

I have always found the Violin Concerto of 1873 something of a letdown. There is just too much slow music. I always have the feeling that I am waiting for something to happen. This is a real shame as Woo Hyung Kim gives us a wonderful account of this work and of Guitare.

Vladyslava Luchenko gives us a spirited performance of the remaining works with the best known probably being the Fantaisie Norvégienne of 1878. Her approach is strong and purposeful; the equal of Kantorow’s own. Her slightly slower speeds allow the themes to breathe and develop.

This is a very fine set with all the soloists being allowed to shine. They are equally well backed up by the excellent Liège Royal Philharmonic under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Kantorow. This is an ideal way to reappraise this composer, and even if like me you know these works, there is something new to find here. The sound is well balanced and has been nicely captured by Alpha’s engineers. This, combined with an informative and well-crafted booklet essay, make this a most welcome addition to the CD catalogue of Lalo’s music.

Stuart Sillitoe


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