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Paul Bazelaire (cello)
Ses 78 tours
rec. 1929-1951
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1202/3  [2 CDs: 148:44]

This 2 CD retrospective collates 78s made by the French cellist Paul Bazelaire between 1929-1951. I assume this compilation is complete, though I'm not  100% certain, as I haven't been able to locate a discography of the artist. My research tells me that this is the first time the cellist's recordings have been made available on CD and, as such, are both long overdue and more than welcome. This is a joint venture between the French Cello Association and Forgotten Records.

Bazelaire was born in Sedan, near the Belgium border, on March 4, 1886, and began studying the cello at the age of seven. Progress was rapid, and at the age of ten he began studies with Jules Delsart at the Paris Conservatoire, becoming the recipient of prizes in harmony, composition and counterpoint along the way. On graduation he embarked on a solo career. From 1918 until 1956 he himself was a professor at the Conservatoire. Pierre Fournier was one of his students. Bazelaire was also a composer, accomplished pianist, and had several publications on cello technique and musical interpretation to his name. He died in Paris December 11 1958.

Although the bulk of Bazelaire's recorded legacy consists of short pieces, there are three substantial offerings in the form of the complete Saint-Saëns Cello Sonata No. 1 (plus two movements from Sonata No. 2). Schumann is represented by the Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110 and the Fantasiestücke, Op. 88 for piano trio. The Schumann chamber works consist of the same personnel and were recorded in 1942.

The recording of Schumann’s Trio No 3 is superb and every bit as compelling as the Hubeau/Merckel/Tortelier version on Erato. In the opening movement the players convey the sweeping lyricism with a convincing sense of line. The slow movement is ardently contoured. The Scherzo is unpredictable in mood, and is followed by an energetic finale with sufficient verve and vigour. I’m equally won over by the performance of the Fantasiestücke, Op. 88, where the cellist is again joined by André Asselin on violin and Lucien Wurmser on piano. The success is due, I’m sure, to the trio’s singularity of vision. Saint-Saëns' First Cello Sonata in an intensely passionate affair, with the first movement being rather bold and forthright. The Andante is elegantly rendered, whilst the finale is striking for its potency and determination.

Originating from studio sessions in 1951 are two duos for cello and violin. In each case Bazelaire's partner is André Asselin. The Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia is a virtuosic tour de force, which many will be familiar with from the Heifetz/Piatigorsky recording. The two protagonists grasp the nettle with purposeful resolve. Les well-known is the four-movement Il Pastor Fido, Op. 13 by Nicolas Chedeville, in Bazelaire own arrangement. It has an attractive, sprightly second movement, followed by a genteel Pastorale.

Bazelaire formed an ensemble of some fifty cellists, and they made several recordings together. These were all set down in November and December 1929, and are featured on seven of the tracks; three are arrangements of encore-type pieces by the cellist himself. In Stradella's Aria di chiesa, Bazelaire's soulful lament is accompanied by the ensemble's orchestral-like accompaniment, and in Valensin's elegant Menuet he is pitched against their plucky pizzicato backing. The group play in unison the melody of Moskowski's Guitare, with support from piano and percussion. Franz Anton Schubert's L'Abeille, from Douze Bagatelles, in an arrangement by Pablo Casals, showcases the ensemble’s impressive virtuosity. Kousnetzoff's Largo is three minutes of heavy laden Russian gloom, offset by the sparkling, jazzy-flavoured Rythmes délaissés, n°4 by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze.

What remains are short morsels for cello and piano. The cellist's rich, burnished tone is put to good use in the Tartini Adagio and the Vivaldi Largo. It's regrettable that there are only two examples of original compositions by Bazelaire himself, in the shape of Berceuse Chinoise and Aria. David Popper's quicksilver Papillon is one of four pieces which derive from a live radio concert broadcast 15 August 1939, just a month before the outbreak of war. The audience's enthusiastic applause says it all.

What strikes the listener when listening to these recordings is Bazelaire’s compelling musicianship and refinement. Contrary to the prevailing fashion of the time, he is sparing with portamenti, and when applied are always tastefully executed. Intonation has dead centre accuracy, and vibrato is tight, yet flexible.

The transfers are expertly realized, and breathe new life into these historical recorded documents. I'm amazed how quiet the transfers sound, obviously the source copies have been in remarkable shape. The sound quality is immediate throughout.  The accompanying, beautifully curated, 36 page glossy booklet contains a fine array of photographs of the cellist. Annotations are in French and English and include a biographical portrait of the cellist by Marc Vignal, and a short interview of Guy Fallot, a student of the Bazelaire, by Alain Deguernel of Forgotten Records.

Stephen Greenbank
 
Contents
 
CD 1 [69:43]
Suite n° 7 en sol mineur, HWV 432 : Passacaille (Arr. : Johan Halvorsen) (Haendel)
Piano : André Asselin
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1951
Il pastor fido, op. 13 (Arr. : Paul Bazelaire) (Chédeville)
Piano : André Asselin
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1951
Aria di chiesa (Arr. : Paul Bazelaire) (Stradella)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Menuet de la première Symphonie (Arr. : Paul Bazelaire) (Valensin)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Phantasiestück, op. 88 (Schumann)
Violin : André Asselin
Piano : Lucien Wurmser
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1942
Phantasiestück, op. 8, n° 2 (Hindemith)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Sonate pour violoncelle et piano n° 1 en ut mineur op. 32 (Saint-Saëns)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Isidore Philipp
Recording date : 1934
Guitare, op. 45, n° 2 (Arr. : Paul Bazelaire) (Moszkowski)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Equale n° 1, WoO 30 (Arr. : C. A. P. Ruyssen) (Beethoven)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Douze Bagatelles, op. 13 : L'Abeille, op. 13, n° 9 (Arr. : Pablo Casals) (Franz Anton Schubert)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929

CD 2 [79:05]
Sonate n° 5 en mi mineur, RV 40 : Largo (Vivaldi)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Armide (Acte V) : Passacaille (Lully)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Trio pour piano et cordes nº 3 en sol mineur, op. 110 (Schumann)
Violin : André Asselin
Piano : Lucien Wurmser
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1942
Suite n° 3 : Largo (Kousnetzof)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Rythmes délaissés, n°4 (Jaques-Dalcroze)
Ensemble de violoncelles
Direction : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1929
Sonate pour violoncelle et piano n° 2 en fa majeur, op. 123 (Saint-Saëns)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Isidore Philipp
Recording date : 1937
Le Petit Nègre (Debussy)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Recording date : 1939
marche (Ilyashenko)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Recording date : 1939
Berceuse chinoise (Bazelaire)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Recording date : 1939
Papillon, op. 3, n° 4 (Popper)
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Piano : Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire
Recording date : 1939
Aria (Bazelaire)
Alto : Pierre Pasquier
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1943
Rêverie (Debussy)
Alto : Pierre Pasquier
Cello : Paul Bazelaire
Recording date : 1943

 

 




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