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René de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Works for Viola and Piano 2
Suite orientale, Op.42 [10:14]
Deux morceaux, Op.51 [10:15]
Reverie, Op.55 [4:16]
Suite, Op.56 [9:36]
Andantino, Op.60 [5:06]
Scènes villageoises, Op.86 [11:57]
Trois pièces pittoresques, Op.93 [11:15]
Marcin Murawski (viola)
Urszula Szyryńska (piano)
rec. 2017, Academy of Art, Szczecin

As has been noted before in discs devoted to his violin and flute music, René de Boisdeffre was something of a master melodist. In the wake of such as Gounod, Massenet and Lalo he wrote with supreme ease in the cause of beguiling chamber and instrumental music. That he was soon to be eclipsed by the greater harmonic daring of other better-known names should not have been enough to consign his name to historic silence to quite such an extent as it did. So, it’s good to be reminded of these matters in this second volume of his viola music, though it should be pointed out that he wrote only a small amount of original music for the instrument. Much here has been arranged for the instrument or else is heard in composer-sanctioned alternative instrumentation.

Boisdeffre wrote character pieces best exemplified by the Suite orientale in which the specificity of the image is rendered hazy by the rather generic, but very beautiful, melodies. The music is, in truth, no more oriental than Albert Ketèlbey, but instead offers an extremely lyrical, even songfully folkloric perspective, hinting at salon, but evoking reverie. This seemingly innate gift for melody is direct and honest, the finale’s Danse orientale in no sense Rimsky-like but extremely attractive on its own terms. The first of the Deux Morceaux sounds a little Bruch or Fauré-like in its yearning, even quietly mournful way whilst its companion moves from a near-invocation of Saint-Saëns’s swan to more earnest folksome expression. The Suite, Op.56 was originally conceived for the cello but arranged for viola by Marcin Murawski. There are some rare baroque hints in places but above all ripe and restful warmth.

Some of the pieces were originally cast for oboe and one can well imagine its Eclogue strains. One such is Andantino, Op.60, a simple ABA schema belied by the elegant refinement of the long-breathed lines. Scènes villageoises is a three-movement and compact set and was also originally conceived for the oboe. Its easy movement and warm-hearted generosity of spirit, with strong, rolled piano chords, and charming dance motifs, are as immediately attractive as the Barcarolle finale of the Trois pièces pittoresques.
Murawski’s tone is weighted more to the alto than the tenor, and this lends a lyric urgency to his playing and he is finely accompanied by the alert Urszula Szyryńska. They’ve been given a good recording within which to flourish and the notes are pertinent and to the point.

Jonathan Woolf



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