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Paul VIARDOT (1857-1941) & Pauline VIARDOT-GARCIA (1821-1910) Works for Violin and Piano Volume 2
Reto Kuppel (violin)
Wolfgang Manz (piano)
rec. 2017, Kammermusiksaal Steingraeber Haus, Bayreuth NAXOS 8.573749 [84:37]
Whilst Volume 1 of this series (8.573607) contained the more serious works, the Sonata of Pauline and the three Sonatas of Paul, this disc presents the more light-hearted, one could say ‘salon’ works. This is certainly true of those works composed by Paul Viardot, whose output, the sonatas apart, tended to be largely made up of short pieces.
Paul Viadot was born into a very distinguished musical family, the Garcia’s, his grandfather Manuel Garcia was a singer, composer and impresario, whilst his aunt was the great Maria Malibran, the darling of many an opera house in the first half of the nineteenth century, whilst his mother, Pauline Viardot, was also a great singer and composer. It was however, the second husband of his aunt that was to influence the musical development of Paul. This was the great Belgian violinist Charles de Bériot, who even after Maria Malibran’s untimely death stayed close to the Garcia family, encouraging his budding violinist and composer nephew. He grew to be an in-demand soloist and, although some dismissed him as a ‘salon player’, others saw him as a fine example of the Franco-Belgian violin school, with Fauré dedicating his A Major Violin Sonata to him.
I don’t know Volume 1 of this series, so can not compare these short pieces to his sonatas. There are many fine short pieces here; the Mauresque of the Six Pièces faciles has a certain charm and elegance, while the Babillage from the same set is a fiery encore full of virtuosic trills. The Trois Petites Pièces see the composer at his best; the charming À l'aurore that opens the set is followed by a depiction of Spanish tradition in En Espagne, a piece his grandfather would have enjoyed, before the set ends with the sweet Air Tendre. There are pieces here that sound so familiar, but I think it is a case of the style of the works being familiar rather than the piece itself. With charming lilting melodies sitting alongside exciting show stoppers, these are indeed largely short salon pieces, but they are still interesting and exciting enough for me to have ordered Volume 1.
Pauline Viardot really needs no introduction, a world class singer and composer of some wonderful songs. These Six Morceaux represent the only instrumental music I have by her on disc. They were composed in 1868 as a gift for her son, to whom they are dedicated, Paul was about eleven at the time and we are told that these six pieces formed part of his early repertoire as a violinist. From the opening Romance it is clear that in these pieces is a mother’s love for her son, there is great tenderness, as well as a sense of a more vocal line in the violin part, especially in the slower pieces such as the Berceuse. There is also a sense that Pauline was not holding back in pushing Paul, the Bohémienne and the Tarentelle being full of technical and flamboyant passages. These pieces display a degree of brilliance that displays what a talented and gifted performer he was even at a tender age, and are for me the finest set of compositions on this disc.
Throughout this disc both Reto Kuppel and Wolfgang Manz are on top form with both accentuating the differing aspects of the musical style very well indeed, smooth in the romantic pieces, fiery in the more energetic Gypsy-inspired excursions. They are captured in a good overall sound and acoustic, while the notes are good, though a little more information on Pauline’s pieces would have been welcome.
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