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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonatas Op. 12: No.1 in D (1797-98) [18:45] No.2 in A (1797-98) [17:58]: No.3 in E flat, Op.12 (1797-98) [17:43]
Violin Sonata No.4 in A minor, Op.23 (1800) [19:13]
Violin Sonata No.5 in F, Op.24 Spring (1800-01) [22:15]
Violin Sonata No.6 in A, Op.30 No.1 (1801-02) [22:42]
Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor, Op.30 No.2 (1801-02) [26:39]
Jean Fournier (violin)
Ginette Doyen (piano)
rec. Paris, 1952-54
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1532-33 [2 CDs: 145:22]

Violin Sonata No.8 in G, Op.30 No.3 (1801-02) [18:35]
Violin Sonata No.9 in A, Op.47 Kreutzer (1802-03) [33:08]
Violin Sonata No.10 in G, Op.96 (1812) [22:50]
Jean Fournier (violin)
Ginette Doyen (piano)
rec. Paris, 1952-54

During the course of a review of Forgotten Records’ restoration of violinist Jean Fournier’s 1956 recordings with pianist André Collard I wondered aloud whether the company could dig out Fournier’s complete Beethoven Violin Sonata recordings. These were made with his wife Ginette Doyen for Westminster between 1952 and 1954. The power of positive thinking seems to have conquered, because here is the set.

Jean Fournier was the brother of Pierre and showed something of the same elegance and refinement as his more famous brother. Despite Pierre’s international eminence Jean was not wholly effaced, certainly not domestically where he made some beautiful recordings of French music. The Fournier-Doyen Fauré Sonatas have been coupled with Schmitt’s sonata by Forgotten Records to fine effect, for example.

The sonatas seem to have been recorded in three batches over the period in question. Each performance is finely characterised, with buoyant ensemble. The variations of the earliest sonata are as well judged as the Kreutzer’s far more famous variations, and there is a similar sense of rhythmic vivacity but flexibility. Finales are invariably lively and never stint the wit of the writing. Fournier’s tone is heard at something like its most beguiling in the slow movement of Op.12 No.3 which he plays with rapt and particularly veiled expression. There’s no hint here, or elsewhere, of indulgence or awkward gestures, of striving for effect. This is a set where phrasing is natural and unforced and where ensemble virtues are to the fore.

The Spring is nicely paced and the rhythmic games in its Scherzo are pointed and not glided over. Fournier’s vibrato remains eloquently graded in the slow movement as it does in a lovely performance of the Op.30 No.1 sonata. Here and in Op.30 No.2 interplay is lithe and deft, Doyen contributing strongly to the success of the individual and collective performances. They don’t press too much in Op.30 No.3 but the music remains alive and vivid, some quick slides irradiating this sonata’s Minuet, and charming exchanges motoring the finale. Neither impersonal nor outsize the Kreutzer is a real chamber, not concertante piece here. Tempi are again finely judged, Fournier’s pizzicati don’t detonate as they can in less subtle hands, and the rhetorical pauses are well judged. The final sonata is both elegant and lively and a fitting end to a thoroughly musical, convincing cycle. It’s far more songful and sympathetic than the rather hard-bitten 1952 Fuchs-Balsam cycle, now on Naxos. I would love Forgotten Records to reissue the (not quite complete – they didn’t record numbers 1 and 6) Beethoven cycle of c.1953 by the Czech team of Alexander Plocek and Josef Páleníček on Supraphon. That should certainly see the light of day.

The Fournier-Doyen cycle is presented in a twofer for Sonatas 1-7 and a single disc for sonatas 8-10. There are no notes but some internet links. The transfers are excellent and the performances, as I hope I’ve suggested, full of subtle colour and flair in the best French tradition.

Jonathan Woolf

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