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Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in A major, Op. 28 (1924) [15:21]
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Sonate Libre en deux Parties Enchaînées, Op.68 (1918-19) [32:40]
André PRÉVOST (1934-2001)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1960-61) [15:08]
Hélène Collerette (violin)
Anne Le Bozec (piano)
rec. 2016, Radio France
RADIO FRANCE SIG11107 [64:11]

This new release from violinist Hélène Collerette and pianist Anne Le Bozec presents a fascinating Franco-Canadian programme. The three sonatas span a period of forty-three years. Whilst Roussel and Schmitt are on the radar, perhaps not many will be familiar with the Canadian André Prévost, but his time spent in Paris as a young man certainly brought him under the influence of French chamber music.

Roussel’s Second Sonata for Violin and Piano dates from 1924. He’d come on leaps and bounds since his first venture into the genre in 1907-8. That early sonata was let down by its prolixity, being overlong and rambling. Now, substance, concision and experience come together in a wonderfully exciting score, skilfully honed to perfection. In three movements, the opener is vigorous, animated and full of drama, yet not without its moments of attractive lyricism. The central Andante’s introspective and desolate character offers striking contrast to the outer movements. The violin presents a lonely figure against a stark piano accompaniment. The finale calls time in witty, mercurial and whimsical fashion.

With a mouthful of a title, Sonate libre en deux parties enchaînées, ad modem Clementis aquæ, Florent Schmitt’s opus predates the Roussel by five years, being completed in 1919. Unusually, I’'s cast in two movements, each quite substantial in length. I have to say that, for me, it’s the gem of the disc. An epic canvas, it’s both rhapsodic and melodic, and encompasses a broad emotional spectrum. The intensely lyrical first movement is effectively balanced by a more extrovert, occasionally turbulent and emotionally undulating second. It’s a work that demands a great deal of fantasy and imagination for a successful outcome. Collerette and Le Bozec do it full justice and don’t disappoint, in their fervent, free-flowing interpretation.

The Canadian composer André Prévost studied at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal where he was a pupil of Isabelle Delorme, Jean Papineau-Couture, and Clermont Pépin. He later went to study with Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux in Paris. He spent a great deal of his life teaching at the Tanglewood Music Centre with Aaron Copland, Zoltán Kodály, Gunther Schuller and Elliott Carter. From the mid-1970s until his retirement in 1996, he was a professor of music at the Université de Montréal. His Sonata for Violin and Piano was written in 1960-61. Spiky, atonal, dissonant and vigorous, is how I would describe the outer movements. The slow movement, marked Très lente, begins with a lengthy soliloquy for the solo violin. It’s a bleak and barren landscape, enveloped by a wintry chill. The piano eventually enters in declamatory style for a fleeting moment, before leaving the violin to continue its pining lament. With one final sweeping arpeggiated chord the piano exclaims the final word.

There’s much to commend this chamber music release. It is well-recorded by Radio France with a successful balance struck between both instrumentalists. Collerette and Le Bozec give convincing performances of these remarkable works. The CD should appeal to those, like myself, with a keen interest in French chamber music.

Stephen Greenbank

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