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Belle Époque
Daniel Hope (violin)
Lise de la Salle, Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)
Jane Berthe (harp)
Zürcher Kammerorchester
rec. 2019, Teldex Studio, Berlin
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 483 7244 [2 CDs: 144.50]

I will confess that it was the title of this collection that drew me to request a review copy. This period of history, broadly defined in this album’s notes by James Jolly, as ‘those four-and-a-half gilded decades bookended by the end of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1871, and the start of the First World War in 1914’, had always intrigued me. Jolly sagely describes those times as an age of prosperity, creativity, originality and frivolity but underneath the glamour and laughter something darker lay stirring (‘… serious social problems, political tensions and discontent among the working classes and imperialism…’)

The first CD opens with Ernest Chausson’s magnificent Concerto for violin, piano and string quartet in a version set for string orchestra that opens wider perspectives. After a decidedly emphatic opening statement a calmer section is ushered in by the solo piano followed by Daniel Hope’s solo violin. This is lyrical, sweetly sentimental music of almost charming innocence, juxtapositioned with turbulent material suggesting pent-up anger that almost stops the music in its tracks. The second movement is an unusually slow moving Sicilienne that is quite haunting mainly due to Lise de la Salle’s light-fingered rippling piano figures. The Grave movement opens eerily, the piano presenting a funereal march with the violin in slow doom-laden reiteration that grows more emphatic and dramatically assertive before the mood lightens – it is a movement of light and shade, melodramatic and turgid - at times almost hysterical. The Finale, marked, Très animé, is just that – merry and capricious but with expressively introspective moments too.

Hope’s Elgar Introduction & Allegro for Strings is given a finely detailed, nuanced and bracing reading, the DG engineers allowing much detail to be revealed. A fine performance, this is, but not really in the same class of the classic 1962 Barbirolli recording (EMI 567240-2). The other popular basic classical repertoire works on this CD are designed to show off Hope’s talent. I would just particularly point out the other Elgar work – his Chanson de matin (Morning Song) in Paul Batemen’s enchanting arrangement capturing early morning bird twittering to a tee.

The second CD is distinguished by the inclusion of Ravel’s Sonate Posthume a real misnomer since it is actually a very early work written in 1897 when Ravel was a composition student at the Paris Conservatory. Nonetheless it does make an impression - it is a vibrant and resourceful work - nicely signposting Ravel’s maturity. Hope is to be credited on his programming of this lesser known work. Of the other works: Rachmaninov’s shadowy, yearning – infused Romance offers Hope the chance to show off his double-stopping skills, then Schoenberg’s Piece in D minor is witty, merry and mischievous. Zemlinsky’s Serenade delights, Koechlin’s 4 Little Pieces, with Stefan Dohr’s horn, intrigue and captivate the ear. The two lyrical Fauré pieces enchant, Berg’s Close my eyes is a nicely soporific lullaby, Paul Juon’s piano- hesitant Berceuse, with its gypsy-like inflections, pleases as does Enescu’s Impromptu concertant. Berg’s Winter is not chilly but infused with warm, gentle recollections. Frank Bridge’s Valse russe with added cello has Hope’s violin, lilting nicely. Hope’s added violin solo to Debussy’s The girl with the flaxen hair contributes nothing and spoils the mood to my mind, I am afraid. Kreisler’s Liebeslied is a firm favourite and a nice decoration here, as is Reynaldo Hahn’s rather more syrupy À Clois. Debussy’s short piece Minstrels, in this transcription for violin and piano, is marked nerveux et avec humour and is just that. Finally the avant garde-sounding Webern piece, which gives a chilled sense of isolation, and is wiry, quirky and restless.
Ian Lace
1-4) CHAUSSON – Concerto for violin, piano, and string quartet (1892) [42.34]
5) DEBUSSY – Rêverie (Dreaming) (1895) [6.08]
6) MASSENET – Méditation (Thaïs) (1894) [5.31]
7) Richard STRAUSS – Morgen (Tomorrow) for soprano, harp, horns and string orchestra (1894) [4.00]
8) SCHOENBERG – Notturno Adagio (1896) [3.13]
9) ELGAR Chanson de matin (Morning song) (1889-90) [3.18]
10) ELGAR Introduction and Allegro for string quartet and string orchestra (1905) [13.58]

1) RACHMANINOV – Romance No.1 from 2 Morceaux de salon (1894) [5.48]
2) SCHOENBERGPiece in D minor (1905) [1.17]
3) ZEMLINSKYSerenade in A Major (Energisch) (1896) [2.07]
4-7) KOECHLIN - 4 Little Pieces: Très modéré, Scherzando, Allegretto quasi andantino, Andante (?) [7.57]
8) FAURÉ Andante op 75 (1897) [4.18]
9) RAVEL Sonate posthume (1897) [14.16]
10) BERG Schliesse mir die Augen beide (Close both my eyes) (1907) [1’09]
11) ENESCUImpromptu concertant (1903) [5.16]
12) FAURÉ – Morceau de lecture (1903) [1.25]
13) Paul JUON – Berceuse (1904) [2.30]
14) BERG – Winter (Jugendlieder Vol. II) (1907) [1.0]
15) Frank BRIDGE – Valse russe No.7 from Miniatures for violin, cello and piano (1908) [3.12]
16) DEBUSSY – La fille aux cheveux de lin (The girl with the flaxen hair) (1909-10) [2.22]
17) Fritz KREISLER - Liebeslied (Love’s Sorrow) (1905) [3.14]
18) Reynaldo HAHN – À Chloris (1913) [3.03]
19) DEBUSSYMinstrels (Debussy’s transcription for violin and piano) (1909) [2.13]
20-23) Anton WEBERN4 Pieces – Sehr langsam; Rasch; Sehr langsam; Bewegt (1910) [4.53]

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