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Emma Boynet (piano)
The Complete Solo 78-rpm Recordings and Fauré LPs
rec. 1933-1952
APR 6033 [82:42 + 82:15]

The French Piano School series continues to unearth valuable recordings from either side of the Second World War and a classic case is provided by this twofer devoted to Emma Boynet (1891-1974). You’ll be grateful to Frédéric Gaussin’s notes – even by his customarily high standards these are comprehensive and insightful - as she’s not one of the best-remembered members of the school even though she made a sequence of sides for Victor in New York in the 1930s that might have presaged greater fame.

Her first discs were made for Pathé in November 1933 and January 1934. There’s a glittering Weber Rondo brillante, a good Falla Andaluza and a detailed Schubert Impromptu in G flat major where her approach to rubato can be gauged but which, as a performance, lacks expressive depth. The two Fauré pieces serve notice that he was one of the composers to remain central to her repertoire. There is very little metrical difference between this reading of the Fourth Nocturne and the 1952 Vox LP performance that’s contained in the second disc.

Her Victor recordings naturally focused on her native repertoire with the exception of a coupling of Bach and Haydn. The first was the unusual transcription by Luigi Perrachio of Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV711 whilst the second was the Rondo from Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI:48. She is full of vitality and it would have been good for companies to have recorded more of her in this kind of repertoire and though whilst not in the league of Haydn playing evinced by Monique de la Bruchollerie, it’s a valuable snippet. Her Chabrier is good as far as it goes but to hear Lazare-Lévy in the Idylle is to hear a far wittier exponent. Then there’s Jean Doyen to consider. He is part of this French Piano School series and his 1935 recording of Chabrier’s Bourée fantasque, made a few years earlier than Boynet’s 1938 Victor, is both metrically stricter and more jocular than hers. Some of her 1938 recordings were made available in a five 12” album set, and she pursued valuable repertoire here – notably Pierné and Philipp (a very refined Nocturne; Boynet was a pupil of Philipp) – and whilst she is not as virtuosic or as fast as Guiomar Novaes in Philipp’s Feux-follets she has a similar feel for clarity. Conversely, she is faster than Blanche Selva’s 1929 French Columbia recording of Séverac’s Baigneuses au soleil, but I think Boynet will have to cede to Selva’s sense of colour and playfulness. I’ve stressed several times that Boynet perhaps lacked a certain smiling generosity but it’s not that she is at all wintry or reserved, rather that the other cited players go rather deeper.

There’s quite a rare brace of 1939 Polydors in the shape of the Ancient Airs and Dances in Philipp’s transcriptions, one of which he dedicated to Boynet. This is a charming quartet of works showing her unaffected and deft approach and making one wish that she had cornered a little of Marcelle Meyer’s repertoire and recorded Couperin, Daquin and Rameau.

The second disc is all-Fauré recorded for Vox in 1950 and 1952. They therefore predate the Fauré recordings made for Ducretet-Thomson by Germaine Thyssens-Valentin which have once again become talismanic since their transfers on Testament. Clearly Vox remained wedded to this repertoire because they were later to replace these mono Boynet recordings and made stereo recordings of Fauré’s complete solo piano music with that fine pianist Evelyne Crochet. (I don’t know if Crochet’s LP sets have been transferred to CD but they certainly should be). Vox recorded Boynet in only six of the thirteen Barcarolles and seven of the 13 Nocturnes but she also plays Trois Romances sans paroles and the Improvisation in C sharp minor and Albert Perilhou’s transcription of Clair de lune. If anything, she is more overtly expressive than Thyssens-Valentin in the First Barcarolle and is fresh-faced and not given to overpedalling in the E flat minor Nocturne. Her pronounced rubato can be heard throughout these readings, prodding the music this way and that, and her tone colours are eloquent. She strikes me as a less reliably nuanced Fauré interpreter than Thyssens-Valentin but she is a consistent one and well worth hearing.

I’ve noted with admiration the booklet notes and I can certainly reprise this for Mark-Obert Thorn’s excellent restorations and indeed for the production as a whole.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [82:42]
The 78-rpm Recordings
Pathé Recordings, Paris 1933 &1934
1. SCHUBERT Impromptu in G flat major D899/3 (Op 90/3);
2. WEBER Rondo brillante in E flat major 'La gaîté' Op 62
3. FAURÉ Nocturne No 4 Op 36;
4. Impromptu No 2 Op 31;
5. FALLA Andaluza
Victor Recordings, New York, 1934 & 1938
6. BACH/PERRACHIO Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV711;
7. HAYDN Rondo from Sonata in C major Hob XVI:48
8. CHABRIER Idylle;
9. Bourrée fantasque;
10. FAURÉ Barcarolle No 5 Op 66
11. DEBUSSY Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir;
12. PIERNÉ Nocturne en forme de valse Op 40/2
13. PHILIPP Nocturne Op 90;
14. Feux-follets;
15. SÉVERAC Baigneuses au soleil
16. IBERT La marchande d'eau fraiche;
17. Le petit âne blanc
Polydor (France) Recordings, Paris. 1939
18-21. 4 Ancient Airs and Dances (transcribed by Isidor Philipp)

CD 2 [82.15]
The Fauré LP recordings 1950 & 1952
Vox Recordings, Paris 1950 & New York 1952
1-6. Barcarolles: No 1 in A minor, Op 26; No 2 in G major, Op 41; No 3 in G flat major, Op 42; No 4 in A flat major, Op 44; No 5 in F sharp minor, Op 66; No 6 in E flat major, Op 70
7-9. Trois romances sans paroles Op 17;
10. Improvisation Op 84/5
11. Clair de lune Op 46/2 (transcribed by Albert Périlhou)
12-17. Nocturnes: No 1 in E flat minor, Op 33/1; No 2 in B major, Op 33/2; No 3 in A flat major, Op 33/3; No 4 in E flat major, Op 36; No 6 in D flat major, Op 63; No 7 in C sharp minor, Op 74

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