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Hélène Boschi (piano)
rec 1958-1960
HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH20075 [10 CDs: 550:35]

Although Hélène Boschi made several recordings for labels such as Supraphon, Eterna and Le Chant du Monde, some having appeared on CD, she’s one of those pianists whose reputation and memory seems lost in the swathes of time. In fact she won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1952 for a recording of music by Padre Soler. She was born in Lausanne, Switzerland on 11 August 1917, and studied at the École normale de musique in Paris with Yvonne Lefébure and Alfred Cortot. She was later to teach there from 1960 to 1965. There were other teaching posts at Strasbourg Conservatoire from 1965 to 1985 and at the Weimar International Summer Seminars from 1960 to 1976. She died in Strasbourg on 9 July 1990. She was also a renowned interpreter of Schumann and won the Robert Schumann prize in 1976.   She was the first pianist to record the complete piano and chamber works of Clara Schumann. Her concert career was based mainly in France and, besides her solo work, she was an avid chamber music performer. There are some examples in the set. Her repertoire was broad-based, ranging from the Baroque (François Couperin, Jean Philippe Rameau, Johann Sebastian Bach) to contemporary music.

CD 1 is devoted to Bosch’s Baroque recordings, and opens with a magisterial account of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor. The Toccata is on the brisk side, but the other movements are more conventionally paced. It’s a pity that she only observes the repeat in the first half of each dance. Any distortion that was noted on the original LP pressings has been eliminated in these glowing transfers. Similarly the background hiss on the original Supraphon LP of the Couperin pieces has here been corrected in the present remasterings. Boschi’s Couperin and Rameau sound improvised and free-flowing, as though the music is evolving on the wing. There are five sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler, and wonderful and uplifting they are too. I first got to know these neglected works on a recording by Anna Malikova (Classical Records), which is well worth seeking out.

Boschi performs some less familiar gems of the repertoire. One such is Clementi’s Sonata in B minor, Op. 40, No. 2. The first movement begins with an introduction full of pathos and striking dissonance, followed by an animated sturm und drang Allegro. She gets the mood just right, and in the ensuing Largo, mesto e patetico she projects a deep sense of regret and sadness. In Weber’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat, Op. 39 she confidently negotiates the treacherous left-hand chord stretches in the first movement, but I don’t feel she achieves the level of intensity found in Alfred Brendel’s recording, which is a benchmark for me.   Maurice Emmanuel’s Sonatine No. 1, Op. 4 Bourguignonne is a glorious work, calling for imagination and colour, and it’s certainly not let down in this compelling performance, enveloped in a radiant palette. Dukas’ Variations, Interlude and Finale on a Theme by Rameau is a work I’ve never heard before. There are many moments of lightness and nuance in this ravishingly beautiful score. The moods range from a doleful chorale to scuttling whimsy.

There are three collaborations with orchestra. In Haydn’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 11 in D major, the pianist is partnered by the Kammerorchester Berlin under the baton of Helmuth Koch. It’s a bright and dazzling reading, and Boschi plays with delicacy and artful musicality, conveying the wit and joyous demeanour of Haydn’s score. The Tschechische Philharmonie and Alois Kilma join Boschi in the 1953 recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat. Kilma points up the rich woodwind colours and textures, which play such a significant role in this concerto. Vincent d’Indy’s Symphonie sur un Chant Montagnard Français, Op.25 has Karel Šejna directing the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. It’s an imaginatively wrought and atmospheric account, all the better for Boschi’s achievement of myriad hues and scintillating pianism.

It’s a pity that Boschi’s recording with violinist Peter Rybar features the less than distinguished F-A-E Sonata, a joint collaboration between Albert Dietrich, Schumann and Brahms. Rarely recorded, the rambling finale by Schumann lets the work down in my view. It’s more than compensated for by her 1956 collaborations with Czech cellist Miloš Sádlo. There’s a passionate and absorbing account of Janáček’s appealing three movement Pohádka Fairy Tale for cello and piano. It’s idiomatic in every respect. The Chopin Sonata has plenty of energy and fire, and both players give a probing account, getting to the very core heart of the work. Sadlo’s rich, warm tone is ravishing.

Two sopranos feature prominently in the vocal items, Irène Joachim and Christiane Castelli. The former was the granddaughter of the great violinist Joseph Joachim. She was lauded for her beauty of voice, visage, figure, and musicianship. The Schumann and Weber items show her to be a magnificent artist with impeccable diction, every syllable enunciated. The voice has a radiant bloom and, throughout, there’s a refinement of phrasing and musical imagination. Castelli is new to me. I find her voice lacking colour and hard-edged in the Chabrier and Duparc items. As an accompanist Boschi is sensitive and responsive at all times.

I can only praise Hänssler Profil for assembling this collection of recordings and making them available on CD. It highlights the wide range of Boschi’s repertoire. Everything is well-recorded, and the remasterings are superb. Here’s a release that will be welcomed with open arms by adventurous pianophiles.

Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [73:37]
Bach, J S: Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV830
Couperin, F: Pièces de clavecin
Rameau: Pièces de clavecin, Book 1 (excerpts)
Rameau: Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, Suite in A Minor (Excerpts Arr. for Piano)
Soler, A: Keyboard Sonata No. 21 in C sharp minor
Soler, A: Keyboard Sonata in G Minor, R. 377
Soler, A: Keyboard Sonata No. 84 in D major
Soler, A: Keyboard Sonata No. 85 in F sharp minor
Anglès: Aria in D Minor
Cantallos:  Keyboard Sonata in F-Sharp Minor
Albéniz, M P: Sonata in D

CD 2 [53:40]
Haydn: Keyboard Concerto No. 11 in D major, HobXVIII:11
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K482

CD 3 [48:49]
Clementi: Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 40, No. 2
Debussy: Children's Corner
Chabrier: Melodies

CD 4 [46:41]
Ravel: Sonatine
Satie: Trois Morceaux En Forme De Poire
Satie: Six Gnossiennes (excerpts)
Satie: Trois Melodies
Bizet: Variations chromatiques

CD 5 [49:48]
Indy: Symphonie sur un chant montagnard, Op. 25
Emmanuel: Sonatine No. 1, Op. 4 'Bourguignonne'
Dukas: Variations, Interlude et Finale sur un Thème de Rameau

CD 6 [54:04]
Janáček: Pohádka (Fairy Tale) for Cello and Piano
Chopin: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65
Severac: Cerdaña (excerpts)
En vacances, Vol. 1 (excerpt)
En Languedoc (excerpt)

CD 7 [56:15]
Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Major, Op. 120, D. 664
Schubert: Valses Sentimentales (34), D 779 Op. 50
Weber: Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39

CD 8 [47:11]
Schumann: Album für die Jugend, Op. 68 (excerpts)
Schumann: Klavierstücke (12) für kleine und große Kinder, Op. 85 (excerpts)
Schumann: Bilder aus Osten, Op. 66

CD 9 [66:25]
Schumann: Lieder und Gesänge aus Goethes Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a
Dietrich, A, Schumann & Brahms: F.A.E. Sonata
Duparc: Mélodies (excerpts)

CD 10 [54:06]
Weber: Die gefangenen Sänger, Op. 47 No. 1
Weber: Die freien Sänger, Op. 47 No. 2
Weber: Der Kleine Fritz, J. 74 (Op. 15 No. 3)
Weber: Es stürmt auf der Flur, J. 161 (Op. 30 No. 2)
Weber: Die Zeit Op. 13:5
Weber: Minnelied, J. 160 (Op. 30 No. 4)
Weber: Herzchen mein Schätzchen, J. 258 (Op. 64 No. 8)
Weber: Mein Verlangen, J. 196 (Op. 47 No. 5)
Weber: Unbefangenheit, Op. 30 No. 3, J157
Weber: Das Röschen ('Ich sah ein Röschen am Wege steh’n'), J. 67 (Op. 15 No. 5)
Weber: Wiegenlied, Op. 13 No. 2, J96
Weber: Klage ('Ein steter Kampf'), J. 63 (Op. 15 No. 2)
Weber: Wenn Kindlein süßen Schlummers Ruh', Op. 80 No. 1, J. 281
Chansons de France Traditionals: Volkslieder

Collaborative artists
Helene Boschi (piano)
Irene Joachim (soprano)
Christiane Castelli (soprano)
Basia Retchitzka (soprano)
Xavier Depraz (bass)
Andre Vessieres (bass)
Nadine Desouches (piano)
Serge Nigg (piano)
Peter Rybar (violin)
Milos Sadlo (cello)
Kammerorchester Berlin
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Helmut Koch
Karel Sejna
Alois Klima

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