Emma Boynet (piano)
The Complete Solo 78-rpm Recordings and Fauré LPs
APR 6033 [82:42 + 82:15]
APR’s The French Piano School series is going from strength to strength, unearthing rare recordings of pianists, many who seem to have migrated off the radar. One such is Emma Boynet (1891-1974). You’ll find hardly anything about her on the internet; a Wikipedia entry amounts to a measly three lines, and she gets only the briefest of mentions in Charles Timbrell’s French Pianism – A Historical Perspective. You’ll never be let down by APR’s documentation. They’ve enlisted one of their regulars - Frédéric Gaussin, whose writing I’ve always found detailed, scholarly and insightful. There’s an eleven page biography, which I found tremendously valuable as I’d no previous knowledge of this pianist.
Boynet was born in Paris to a father who “loathed” music and a “very musical” mother. Thus, her early groundings in piano were made by stealth. Progress was rapid and she eventually entered the Paris Conservatoire where she studied with Isidore Philipp. She made her debut in 1912 and was praised for her “penetrating sound (and) her sparkling technique”. Her progress was halted by the War, but she returned to performing in 1918. As well as a solo career, she performed chamber music and frequently collaborated with instrumentalists. She made quite a splash in the States, visiting on and off from 1934, and became a favourite of Serge Koussevitzky. She died in Paris in 1974. Boynet forged her reputation with French music, especially that of Gabriel Fauré.
The Pathé Recordings were set down in Paris in 1933 & 1934. The most impressive is Weber’s
Rondo brillante in E flat major 'La gaîté' Op 62, an example of Jeu Perlé at its finest, where the runs are fast, clean and even. Schubert’s
G flat Impromptu is earthbound and routine, lacking the poetry of Horowitz. It’s significant that Boynet records two pieces by Fauré in her very first recording session on 13 November 1933, including one of my favorites, the
Nocturne No. 4 in E flat, a reading ardently expressive. She was to return to the studios again with this in New York April 1952 for Vox. The
Impromptu Op. 31, No. 2 in F minor glistens with delicate, diaphanous fingerwork.
Boynet’s Victor recordings were made between 1934 and 1938. There a
Rondo from Haydn’s Piano Sonata in C taken at a breathless pace, but exuding vivacity and cheer. The same joyous smile imbues Chabrier’s
Bourrée fantasque. Debussy’s Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir
is invested with swathes of impressionistic colour. Welcome are two lesser-knowns, Pierné’s
Nocturne en forme de valse and Séverac’s Baigneuses au soleil, both radiating sunlight and warmth. She includes two pieces by her teacher Isidore Philipp, of which
Feux Follets is the best with its sparkling cascades.
Her farewell to the studios took place in the early 1950s with her Fauré LP recordings. Over two sessions, 12 June 1950 in Paris and 23 April 1952 in New York, she returned to the composer she probably admired the most. Her Fauré recordings are wonderful. She plays the first six
Barcarolles. She performs them with elegance, graceful legato, rhythmic nuance and sensitive rubato. How well she portrays the gentle waves sending the gondola on its journey in
No. 4 in A flat, Op. 44. In No. 5 she captures the dark, troubled undercurrents. Admirable is the way she savours and projects the lyrical beauties of the
Trois romances sans paroles. Boynet selects six of the thirteen Nocturnes.
She enters fully into the mood of each with probing intensity. Sensitive application of pedal enables her to achieve myriad coloristic hues. There’s a wide dynamic range, too. Listen to the breathtaking pianissimos in
No. 1 in E flat, Op. 33. No. 4 in E flat, Op. 36 has an innocent simplicity, and I love the way she probes the inner depths of the less accessible
No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 74.
These recordings have been lovingly restored by Mark Obert-Thorn, and are deserving of the highest praise. As already mentioned, the documentation, in English and French, is exceptionally thorough. The Fauré recordings are the plums of the set and, for me, stand shoulder to shoulder with those of that other grande dame of the keyboard Germaine Thyssens-Valentin.
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;
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