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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 (unpublished version according to the Vienna manuscripts) [42:34]
Canons (transcribed for solo violin by Léo Marillier):
Te solo adoro [0:30]
Freu’ dich des Lebens! [0:21]
Glaube und hoffe! [0:17]
Canon without name (3 August 1825) [0:16]
Missa Solemnis, Op. 123 “Benedictus” (arr. Léo Marillier) [9:47]
Rondo alla ingharese quasi un capriccio, “Rage Over a Lost Penny”, Op. 129
(arr. Léo Marillier) [6:30]
Léo Marillier (violin)
Antoine de Grolée (piano)
Ensemble A-letheia/Jacob Bass
rec. live, 11 March 2018, Saint-Denys du Sacrement Church, Paris (Concerto); 4 April 2018, Couvent des Cordelières, Provins (Canons); 5 June 2018, Salle Colonne, Paris (violin and piano works)
CASCAVELLE VEL1529 [60:32]

In 2014 I had the pleasure of reviewing Léo Marillier's debut album Fantaisies d'opéra on the Forgotten Records label (review). I not only praised his violin playing, but also his gifts as a composer/transcriber. I was convinced then that he was one of the up-and-coming talents of the future, and ended my review with “watch this space”. In the intervening four years his career has gone from strength to strength. In 2016 he founded the Ensemble A-letheia, a group of young musicians culled from the international conservatories. They partner the violinist in the major work featured on this new release, the Beethoven Violin Concerto in an unpublished version according to the Vienna manuscripts.

Marillier is at present working in research at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. His current project is centred on the gestation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto "....building a 'geological' analysis of the score, (and) finding the layers of the process...." through which the composer worked. Privileged access to the original manuscripts in Vienna has been the basis and the starting point of Marillier's work. The live concert performance of the Concerto, given on the 11 March 2018 at the church of Saint-Denys du Sacrement, like nothing you will have heard before, marks the culmination of his research.

The Concerto, a commission from the violinist Franz Clement, was not finished until the last minute. Clement sight-read some of it at the 1806 premiere. He also made some alterations, which did not please the composer, who eventually withdrew the dedication. Nevertheless, Clement was to oversee publication. One source for the completion sits in the National library in Vienna. The document contains many suggestions and alternatives on such things as ornamentation. There are many crossed-out passages, and simplifications to the solo part abound. Marillier's research began when studying the work, and was an attempt to resolve some of the discrepancies between the various editions. Here he presents his own edition, based on this rich Vienna source.

I have listened to the recording a several times. It seems apparent to me that the version we are familiar with today has been pared down and honed considerably from what we have here. Many passages are here more florid and decorative. The Marillier edition's interest lies in the fact that the compositional choices the composer originally offered are laid out before us, so much so that I got the feeling I was listening to a different work. Lyrical lines are ornamented, and melodies occasionally jump an octave. At one point in the opening movement the violin weaves a virtuosic soliloquy around what we know as a purely orchestra part. The first movement cadenza is lengthy, and ends with kettle drums supporting in what sounds like a military march.

The engineers have successfully tamed the resonant acoustic of Saint-Denys du Sacrement, and have achieved a pleasing profile of the soloist in the mix. The A-letheia Ensemble, under the inspirational direction of Jacob Bass, play with commitment, infectious enthusiasm and a real sense of shared purpose.

As a sign of friendship, Beethoven often appended short canons and fughettas to his letters as a simple way of saying ‘thank you’. Marillier has transcribed four of these brief morsels for solo violin, and they constitute attractive diversions. On a larger scale is the violinist’s arrangement for violin and piano of the “Benedictus” from the Missa Solemnis. Beethoven himself had enriched the original with a violin solo, wanting to represent Christ’s descent to earth by an instrument rather than a voice. Its poetic and reverential character is perfectly conveyed in this sensitive and imaginative adaption. The final piano arrangement, Rondo alla ingharese quasi un capriccio, “Rage Over a Lost Penny”, ends the disc on a less serious note with this witty and humorous caprice. The pianist Antoine de Grolée deftly adapts to the character of the contrasting pieces.

This is an imaginatively constructed programme, and one I have enjoyed immensely. Cascavelle’s superb presentation is worthy of special mention. The CD is housed in a sturdy card gatefold. The beautifully produced booklet runs to 63 pages in French, English, German and Japanese. Marillier’s scholarly annotations, detailing his research of the Vienna manuscripts, proves a fascinating read, and the photographic reproductions of the original documents is further testimony to the care and attention that has been lavished on this outstanding production.

Marillier performs on a Nicolas Lupot violin of 1811, on loan from Emmanuel de Pelichy.

Stephen Greenbank




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