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Albert DUPUIS (1877-1967)
Violin Sonata [27:38]
Vincent d'INDY (1851-1931)
Andante, for violin and piano [5:39]
Violin Sonata [35:31]
Joseph-Ermend BONNAL (1880-1944)
Après la tourmente, Romance for violin and piano [6:49]
Gaëtane Prouvost (violin), Eliane Reyes (piano)
rec. 2018, Studio de Stephen Paulello, Villethierry, France
EN PHASES ENP007 [75:44]

Newly released on the En Phases label, this new album of works for violin and piano by Dupuis, d’Indy and Bonnal includes two premiere recordings. Promoted as an ‘homage’ to the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing, the compositional style of these four works, however, leans more towards impressionism, particularly to the soundworld of Fauré.

The elder and best known of the three composers here is Vincent d’Indy. A Parisian born and bred, d’Indy studied with Franck at Conservatoire de Paris becoming an ardent supporter of his tutor. A relatively early work, d’Indy’s Andante for violin and piano was likely written in 1876 when he was in his mid-twenties. Likely unperformed, not published and uncatalogued the work lay forgotten until 2017 when Tobias Broeker unearthed the autographed manuscript. Dedicated on the title page to violin soloist Jean Bernis, the Andante takes around five and a half minutes to perform here and is its first recording. Clearly relishing the short Andante, Prouvost and Reyes with effortless playing communicate an atmosphere of gentle reflection.

Completed in 1904, d’Indy’s Violin Sonata bears a dedication to Belgian violinist Armand Parent who premiered the work with d’Indy on piano at Paris the next year. In four movements, the Sonata is an engaging work. Notable is the playing of the opening Modéré movement which opens and closes with dreamy and warmly melodic writing. A greater central portion has a troubled, more intense quality. Standing out is the Très lent movement; such an alluring and elegant creation. Prouvost and Reyes communicate a sense of aching passion drawing the listener into the sound world.

Albert Dupuis, a native of Belgium is an unfamiliar name to me. Through working with d’Indy at Schola Cantorum de Paris, Dupuis become a follower of César Franck. The composer of numerous operas, Dupuis’ music developed towards impressionistic elements. Making a significant impact is Dupuis’ violin sonata, a strongly melodic work of a ‘cyclical construction’ which is a real find and is receiving its premiere recording here. This is a mature work, published in 1922 and is dedicated to the composer’s wife. Marked Modéré pastorale in the opening movement Prouvost and Reyes convey an aching passion played with an unrelenting intensity. Performed with a swirling spirit the Allegro Scherzo has a mischievous rather edgy quality and the highly chromatic and expressive slow movement smoulders with fervour. In the Finale - Allegro appassionato the music is carried along by Prouvost and Reyes with a stormy release of profound ardour, maintained till the end.

I have heard of Bordeaux born Joseph-Ermend Bonnal yet I know of his works by reputation only. Influenced by the music of Franck, Bonnal studied at Conservatoire de Paris taking composition under Fauré. Bonnal wrote several works for violin and piano including a sonata in 1900. Written around 1919 the single movement Après la tourmente, a romance for violin and piano, is dedicated to Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. This is a work of yearning imbued with melancholy, possibly a tribute to those who died in the Great War. Astutely, Prouvost and Reyes convey that an undertow of hope is never far away.

This is riveting playing from Gaëtane Prouvost so gratifyingly accompanied by Eliane Reyes. Prouvost provides generously expressive and refined performances with attractive tone color and impeccable intonation. Using a Stephen Paulello grand piano Reyes, very much in sympathy with the idiom, plays intelligently with an invigorating style and spirit. These first-class performances are a welcome reminder that d’Indy’s violin sonata is such a glorious work and the Dupuis violin sonata a major discovery.

Recorded at Studio de Stephen Paulello at Villethierry the rather dry and relatively close sound quality has satisfying clarity and balance. In the booklet the essay written by Gilles Saint-Arroman is invaluable. At the rear of the CD booklet the dates of birth and death of d’Indy and Dupuis are given the wrong way around. This captivating album of French/Belgian violin sonatas far exceeded my expectations which were already high. Violinist Gaëtane Prouvost and pianist Eliane Reyes are both in formidable form.

Michael Cookson

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