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Forgotten Ferras
Christian Ferras (violin)
Pierre Barbizet (piano: Ravel Tzigane and Pavane, Massenet and Fauré), Ernest Lush (piano: Kreisler, Sarasate), Shuku Iwasaki (piano: remainder)
rec. April 1971, Japan (w/Iwasaki): February 1951, Brussels (w/Barbizet) and November 1948, London (w/Lush)

It’s quite unusual for a recording by a major artist to be completely overlooked but such is the fate of this one. Fourteen of the twenty tracks were made in Japan in 1971 when Christian Ferras was on tour. Released by the local DG subsidiary the LP was never released in the West, and it saw only one further release as a partial reissue in Japan in November 1982. What is so exciting, beyond the reinstatement of the LP in its entirety, is the fact that the items selected were then – and remain so, given his premature death – entirely new to his studio discography. Clearly Ferras had recalled an earlier recital disc with pianist Jean-Claude Ambrosini and had struck out in the direction of discographic novelty.

Thus the recital, with Shuku Iwasaki accompanying, wears a comfortingly old school look. Sweetmeats and recital staples make up the programme in a recital that wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1950 or, indeed, 1930. His Rameau Tambourin – which is one of five Kreisler arrangements – starts the recital in genial fashion, before Ferras inflects Tchaikovsky’s Andante cantabile with characteristic expressive heightening. His succulent tonal vibrancy can be savoured in the Granados whilst romantic French elegance is to the fore in Mendelssohn’s On Wings of Song – an interpretation at a polar remove from Heifetz’s nonpareil febrile exultation. Ferras’s fast vibrato can be heard in Drdla’s Souvenir which is followed by Bach’s Air on the G string in the Wilhelmj arrangement.

Ferras invariably played Ravel well and his idiomatic and evocative Pièce en forme de habanera – graced by adept dynamics – is one of the highlights of an agreeably light selection. His Dvořák is taut, not over-emotive, and fast, as is Schön Rosmarin who sounds coquettish and almost out of breath. Throughout Iwasaki – who recorded alongside some elite French string players such as Tortelier and Gendron - provides solid support, though she can be jog-trottingly unimaginative from time to time.

The remaining items come from 78s made between 1948 and 1951. The excellent Tzigane, with frequent collaborator Pierre Barbizet, is best known from his LP remake with the pianist or the orchestrally accompanied version he made with Georges Sébastian and the Belgian National Symphony. Subtle slides and Gallic refinement grace Ravel’s Pavane, though the end is curiously ineffective, there’s a robust Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro with Ernest Lush and a classic French brace to finish – Massenet and Fauré. Both Ravel pieces, incidentally, are apparently making their first CD appearance here.

The story of the rediscovery of this Japanese LP can be read in the notes, where there is also useful ancillary information such as the existence, in Ferras’s effects, of a private tape copy. Ultimately, however, this will be a release of some interest to devotees of the short-lived violinist, even if – or possibly because – most of the repertoire is so unusual for him.

Jonathan Woolf

Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Tambourin, RCT 9, arr. Kreisler [1:47]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
String Quartet No.1 In D Major, Op.11, TH.111: Andante cantabile arr. Kreisler [4:34]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danzas espagnolas, Op.37 No.5 Andaluza arr. Kreisler [3:08]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
On Wings of Song, Op.34, No.2, S 547/R 217 arr Achron [3:53]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Petite Suite, L.65 - En bateau arr. Gaston Choisnel [3:24]
Franz DRDLA (1869-1944)
Souvenir [3:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No.3 in D, BWV 1068 – Air on the G string arr. Wilhelmj [5:25]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Quintet in E Major, Op.11, No.5, G.275 – Menuetto [3:06]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habanera, M. 51 [2:40]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op.55, No.4, B.104 arr. Kreisler [2:27]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Menuet in G Major, WoO10, No. 2 [1:57]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Tango, Op.165, No.2, B. 37 arr. Kreisler [2:03]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Serenade (Ständchen), D.957, No.4 [3:35]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Schön Rosmarin [1:37]
Maurice RAVEL
Tzigane, M.76 [9:30]
Pavane pour une infante défunte, M.19 arr. Kochanski [4:25]
Praeludium and Allegro [5:05]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Romanza andaluza Op.22, No.1 [4:39]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation de Thaïs arr. Marsick [4:11]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse, op.16 [3:43]



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