René de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Works for Violin and Piano 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
World-première recording

While the vast majority of CD releases on the Acte Préalable label feature music from Poland, given that this is the stated aim of the company to promote, it does include the occasional issue without any apparent Polish roots or connection.

René de Boisdeffre was born at Vesoul in eastern France and died in Vézelise, less than 100 miles away. His output – where he appears to owe much to Gounod and Massenet in his vocal music, and Lalo and Saint-Saëns in his instrumental – includes some sixty chamber-music works, a genre for which he was awarded the Prix Chartier, piano pieces, vocal music, and a handful of orchestral works. As a consequence of the above influences, his musical style has been described as ‘quite conservative’.

The CD opens with the Deuxième sonate pour piano et violon en mi mineur op. 50, where the initial ‘Allegro ma non troppo’ starts with an attractive, melodic line, which proceeds to the second theme after which there an effective working-out of thematic material in the development, before a conventional recapitulation follows. Throughout there is good interplay between both players, and clearly the composer is at home writing for both violin and piano. The return of the second theme is a particularly appealing and tender moment, but surefootedly Boisdeffre then cranks up the tempo to round the movement off effectively. The Allegro grazioso functions as a Scherzo, and combines an initially light opening with some music of darker hue. There is some motivic development here, too, which is often shared between the players. The ‘Lento ed espressivo’ is at the emotional heart of the sonata, starting in an almost devotional vein, and building in intensity as it progresses. The composer maintains interest throughout by juxtaposing short sections of calm with slightly more turbulent moments, all in all a delightful confection. The Finale (Allegro con brio) opens in business-like fashion, but slows for its second theme, after which the opening tempo is resumed. The development includes some effective imitative writing which helps keep the listener’s attention, as an array of melodious themes passes by before the recapitulation. This goes according to plan, much along the lines of the earlier exposition, before the music flows effectively to a convincing close in the tonic major.

The Suite orientale pour violon avec accompagnement de piano op. 42 consists of three relatively short pieces, opening with Sous les palmiers – Rêverie. This is a pleasant enough piece of salon music in ternary (ABA) form – certainly ‘dreamy’ as its subtitle suggests, though not appearing to display anything remotely ‘oriental’. Chanson arabe does have a darker quality, but again there is little if anything to suggest any ‘arabe’ connection, where at least one might have expected some suggestion, in terms of melodic progression or scale. Danse orientale does at least hint ever so slightly at its title, but it reality the descriptor ‘orientale’ for the Suite as a whole does seem something of a misnomer.

The comprehensive and informative CD booklet suggests that the six separate pieces that make up the Suite poétique pour violon et piano op. 19 in fact comprise two sets of three pieces, exemplifying the ‘interesting’ concept of arranging such salon miniatures according to different lyrical categories – Prélude – Méditation – Berceuse – Elégie – Sérénade mystérieuse – Pastorale. Be that as it may, it’s hardly a ground-breaking concept, but these are still attractive little essays except, perhaps, for the last piece, which doesn’t come across quite as melodic as its partners.

The CD closes with Deux idylles pour piano et violon op. 75, the first providing just one more example of what Boisdeffre really does best – producing short, attractive, and lyrical miniatures, The second, however, is far more animated, and exudes a strong dance-like quality, which does ends the CD on a welcome high – overall performance, and recording quality have been consistently high throughout..

If you read through Jan A. Jarnicki’s preface in his CD booklet (notes in Polish, English, French and Italian), he sets out his case for the likes of René de Boisdeffre, and a number of other equally-unknown composers he has individually championed, not to be forgotten. In one respect there is nothing on this CD that hasn’t already been covered by many other composers, of equal fame. But it is always eminently tuneful, simply-formed, and immediately-appealing stuff, especially the Second Sonata, and, as such Jarnicki should probably be encouraged to keep up the good work, not only by releasing a successor to this Volume 1, but also by continuing his quest for other similarly-forgotten composers – and certainly while he can still enjoy the continuing support, artistic and of course financial, of the excellent Acte Préalable label.

Philip R Buttall

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