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René de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Works for Violin and Piano Vol. 1
Deuxième sonate pour piano et violon op. 50 [30:07]
Suite orientale pour violon avec accompagnement de piano op. 42 [8:38]
Suite poétique pour violon avec accompagnement de piano op. 19 [19:43]
Deux idylles op. 75 pour piano et violon [7:21]
Dejan Bogdanovich (violin)
Jakub Tchorzewski (piano)
rec. 17 February 2016, BlowOutStudio, Treviso, Italy
ACTE PRÉABLE AP0362 [65:53]

René de Boisdeffre is a name which most of us would admit to being unfamiliar with. Fittingly, the booklet notes to this first volume of what would appear to be a projected complete edition of his works for violin and piano virtually open with his status as “a completely forgotten composer.” He came from a military family. Encouraged by Saint-Saëns, abandoned his musical education under the conservative August Barbereau and joined the Paris music societies, which would help him become published and performed. Most of his oeuvre is in the chamber music genre, but he also wrote songs and some larger-scale orchestral and religious works. His language is based on the tradition of the earlier 19th century, with Mendelssohn cited as a significant influence, though with touches of contemporary salon and operatic style.

The Sonata No. 2 Op. 50 is substantial in scale but by no means daunting, and lightness of texture and an often playful nature make for an entertaining listen. I like the ‘walking-bass’ idea in the piano part of the Allegro grazioso second movement, which also has its dramatic contrasts. The ‘lyrical scene’ of the Lento ed espressivo third movement is a finely wrought and deeply felt romance, while the outer movements have plenty of wide-ranging content.

You would not give the Suite orientale much credit for Eastern exoticism, but this is a lovely set of three miniatures that stand on their own terms. They use touches of oriental melodic shape to give added atmosphere to the lyrically romantic nature of each of the first two pieces, and the set is completed by a more energetic Danse orientale. More thematically ambitious is the Suite poétique, a set of five compact movements which continues the traditional melody-accompaniment relationship between violin and piano, but none the worse for that. De Boisdeffre’s invention certainly shows no shortage in terms of melody, though the chances of you coming away retaining a distinctive ‘earworm’ are not particularly great. That said, movements such as the Elégie are well crafted and by no means ineffective. The final Deux idylles form a nice pair, opening with a quite rhetorical narrative from the violin and replied to with a dance-like variant on a similar mood.

Recorded in a fairly dry studio environment, I would say that the sonic impression of these performances is serviceable rather than inspiring, with the violin favoured a little by the balance, no doubt being more naturally bright sounding but clearly closer to its microphones than the piano. The playing of the two musicians is, however, well up to close scrutiny, and they do well to create a decent atmosphere and mood. It is indeed remarkable that this composer’s works have avoided the light of day in 110 years since his death, but without a ‘hit’ to call attention to or remind us of his name it is all too easy for such creations to end up dusty and neglected. Credit must go to the label’s founder Jan A. Jarnicki. His collection started from the archive of the Sibley Library at Rochester University, and must be said to be still ongoing: these recordings are purely based on the scores he has managed to gather so far.

Dominy Clements

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