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

Paul Bazelaire (1886-1958) was one of the most distinguished of French cellists, and most well-known on disc for his recording of Saint-Saens’s Cello Sonata, Op.32 in June 1934 with pianist Isidore Philipp: three years later they recorded two movements from the Second Sonata. He also had a gargantuan 50-cello ensemble, composed extensively and edited prolifically – in addition to having been a fine pianist. Such a web of talents can often lead to a dissipation but not in Bazelaire’s case, as he was also a much-admired teacher.

This twofer collates the entire corpus of his recordings on 78, made between 1929 and 1951. They’re not arranged chronologically, nor thematically, nor by composer but in a rather more piecemeal way. Fortunately for the collector there are some rare broadcast items. An aural journey through his discography shows just what an admirable executant he was.

Both Saint-Saëns sonata performances have been reissued before, notably by Pearl with its much higher quotient of surface noise. Bazelaire had performed with the composer and his insights into the music are as central as those of his near-contemporary Maurice Maréchal’s understanding of Debussy. But where Maréchal had a rich woody tone – it seems to emerge from the soil – Bazelaire’s was more focused, and as an artist was less given to the use of portamento. Both the First and the torso of the Second sonata are essential to appreciating Franco-Belgian cello performance in the 1920s and 30s. In many ways the recording of the First has never been surpassed artistically. It’s always remained something of a mystery why the second sonata wasn’t recorded in full.

Schumann’s Trio No.3, Op.110 was recorded in wartime Paris with the longstanding trio of Bazelaire, violinist André Asselin and pianist Lucien Wurmser. Earlier in the year they’d recorded his Phantasiestücke, Op.88, two extended chamber music forays that were never to be repeated, regrettably. Both are marvelous, the string players exuding unaffected elegiac warmth in the Duo of the Phantasiestücke, and playing the Piano Trio with great refinement and a fine balance of dynamism, depth and humour. For the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia Bazelaire joins with Asselin and they also play Nicolas Chedeville’s Il Pastor Fido, Op.3, a piece long ascribed to Vivaldi. Such repertoire points to Bazelaire’s tireless efforts editing eighteenth-century music.

With his cello ensemble he’s transformed into a great singer-lyricist, spinning beautiful cantabile in Stradella or Valensin or negotiating his way through the mass swarm in Franz Anton Schubert’s (the other Schubert) L’Abeille.

Hindemith’s Phantasiestück, Op.8 No.2, Debussy’s Le petit nègre, Andrei Ilyashenko’s Marche, Popper’s Papillon and Bazelaire’s own Berceuse chinoise, all with the accompaniment of his wife, pianist Louise Clapisson-Bazelaire, come from a radio broadcast of August 1939. These are precious artefacts heard in fine sound. One can hear him tune up briefly before his own piece, which he plays with great tonal beauty, and with a vibrato of celestial refinement. The pieces by Lully, Vivaldi and Tartini were also recorded with his wife – they are played memorably and with none of the more gauche gestures often associated with performance of baroque music at the time – but in an unknown year and are also non-commercial.

A few years later he recorded a Lumen 78 with the great violist Pierre Pasquier – his own Aria and Debussy’s Rêverie – but Bazelaire this time was at the piano stool.

FR has gone to town on the presentation for these important discs. There’s a 36-page booklet, attractively laid out, with fine essays and photographic reproductions. There’s a full discography which includes matrix numbers as well as release ones – praise be. This is an outstanding release in every way.

Jonathan Woolf
 
Previous review: Stephen Greenbank
 
Contents 
CD 1 [69:43]
Suite n° 7 en sol mineur, HWV 432 : Passacaille (Arr. : Johan Halvorsen) (Handel)
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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