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Réne de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Works for Viola and Piano – Volume 1
Mélodie, Op. 6 [5:05]
Six Pièces, Op. 15 [13:20]
Trois Pièces, Op. 20 [9:51]
Trois Pièces, Op. 26 [10:57]
Berceuse, Op. 34 [4:30]
Trois Pièces, Op. 40 [11:19]
Élévation, Op. 48 [3:36]
Marcin Murawski (viola)
Urszula Szyryńska (piano)
rec. 2017, Academy of Arts in Szczecin, Poland

Réne de Boisdeffre – a name to provoke a quick visit to Wikipedia, because I had never heard of him. His aristocratic name is actually Charles Henri Réne le Mouton de Boisdeffre and he was born in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region of France in 1838. Acte Préalable have already issued two CD’s of his music for violin and piano, and here we have volume 1 of his works for viola and piano.

His musical output is almost entirely for chamber forces or voice and/or chorus. No operas and just one orchestral work. The sleeve note says that he was of a conservative musical disposition which led to his output being neglected both before and after he died in 1906. I can believe that, but I must say that he had a vivid melodic ability, amply displayed here in some sixteen very short pieces. They don’t vary in style from the earliest op.6 to the latest op.48 and could easily have come from the pen of Massenet or Gounod when composing in lighter mode – I am tempted to say ‘for the salon’. Indeed, they are so melodic, so ‘singable’ that I feel sure that, had he been so inclined, he could have produced music for the L’Opéra Comique. Take the Berceuse op.34 – its gently swaying, lullaby rhythm could easily find a place as a sentimental aria and the Elegie from Six Pieces op.15, in its falling phrases could form the basis for a gentle love duet.

As with previous Acte Préalable recordings of his music, the impetus appears to have come from Jan A. Jarnicki, who devotes his time to re-discovering the works of forgotten composers. There was not enough original music for viola to fill 2 CDs, so Boisdeffre’s own transcriptions of works originally composed for other forces have been supplemented by the violist’s own arrangements.

The ample sleeve notes describing each piece have been written by the violist, Marcin Murawski. He is most enthusiastic about the music, saying that the listener should “savour the beautiful cantilena (of the Adagietto of the Six pieces op.15) which will, without a doubt remain in their subconscious for a long time”. He is undoubtedly correct, and if you respond to Cecile Chaminade’s short pieces, you will probably like this CD as well.

The recording is full, with an occasionally forward presence for the viola, although I note that he says that an attenuator was used on his instrument for the recording of the Berceuse.

Jim Westhead



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