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Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani [5:30]
Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice for solo violin, Op.6 [4:58]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Romance in B flat, Op.28 (1877) [5:45]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Poème Elégiaque in D minor, Op.12 (1893) [14:07]
Sonata No.4 for solo violin, Op.27 No.4 (1923) [15:33]
Caprice d’apres l’Étude en forme de Valse de C. Saint-Saëns, Op.52 [8:52]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Poème, Op.25 (1896) [14:51]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Elégie, Op.143 (c.1915) [4:33]
Rosanne Philippens (violin)
Julien Quentin (piano)
rec. January 2016, MCO Studio, Hilversum

The dedicatory web that enmeshes this excellently-programmed Franco-Belgian repertoire needs only the briefest of explanations. Ysaÿe’s Poème Elégiaque was dedicated to Fauré, whose Romance in B flat is also performed in the recital. Ysaÿe also dedicated his Fourth solo sonata to Kreisler, whilst Kreisler dedicated the Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice to Ysaÿe. Meanwhile the great Belgian titan also famously inspired Chausson’s Poème. There’s also homage in the form of Ysaÿe’s Caprice after Saint-Saëns’s Waltz, Op.52.

Rosanne Philippens and Julien Quentin open their programme with the baroque-romanticism of Kreisler’s Pugnani ‘forgery’, the Praeludium and Allegro. Rhythms appear strict at first but there’s also a sensuous element to Philippens’ phrasing, and slides that are noteworthy, not least when the piece is so often performed as a masculine crowd-pleaser. There’s no over-striving for a contrastingly fast tempo in the B section and there are dapper exchanges as the piece develops. I like the amplitude of Quentin’s playing in support and the characterful interplay they both find. For once this is no coach-and-horses performances; the piano has independent life. The delicious chanson that is Fauré’s Romance, with its play of dappled lyricism and more urgent central panel, is played here with just the right level of affection so that it’s not smothered in sentiment.

Sterner interpretative tests are provided by the Poème Elégiaque, one of Ysaÿe’s most interesting medium-scaled pieces. This is played with stylistic acumen and at a good forward-moving tempo, with the music’s moments of passionate intensity well defined by both musicians – again Quentin proves no submissive colleague, and takes full advantage of the opportunities accorded in giving as good as he gets. The atmospheric moments when Philippens plays on mere tendrils of tone are especially beguiling too. Perhaps what one misses, in the end, is the kind of thing displayed by one of Ysaÿe’s greatest pupils, Aldo Ferraresi, whose 1965 performance, at a more leisurely pace, shows how spun legato lyricism can embody myriad inflexions to imbue the lyricism with tension. In comparison, she can sound a touch flatly one-dimensional.

Ysaÿe’s Fourth Sonata sounds a little becalmed in this reading. Its relative slowness might not be a concern – though players such as Shumsky, Ushioda, Schmid, Stobbe, Kraggerud, Graffin and Papavrami (in fact almost everyone) are all significantly faster – so much as there’s a lack of graphic purpose from time to time. Certainly, she has her own ideas as to what Quasi Lento means – in effect she omits the ‘Quasi’ – but her approach renders the sonata less uplifting than usual and tinged with greater melancholy. The other large-scale piece is Chausson’s Poème, which is always good to encounter in the version for violin and piano, which tends to clarify the accompanying figures. I sense a more involved, knowing approach to this piece as it’s deftly done with fine balances. Saint-Saëns’ affecting little Elégie is followed by the concluding Ysaÿe work based on his Waltz. This is a technically demanding affair, constantly on the look-out to disrupt and destabilize the violinist. Fortunately, Philippens isn’t falling into any such trap.

It ends a most enjoyable recital, played with individuality and flair. I’d seek further afield for the Ysaÿe Sonata but it needs to be heard in the context of her recital as a whole. She and Quentin have been splendidly served by their engineers and by a good booklet. Thoughtful programming bears its own reward.

Jonathan Woolf


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