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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]

APR's French Piano School has been a voyage of discovery for me revealing some real rarities and pleasures and this, the seventh release, is no exception. I had heard of Emma Boynet and realise that I have had an example of her playing in my collection for a while as part of Naxos' Woman at the piano series (Naxos 8.111120). The detailed booklet, in English and French, gives lots of information about her life, her career and the wide range of repertoire that she played; born to a very musical mother and a father who loathed music, allowing no-one in his presence to play it, Boynet managed somehow to develop sufficiently to be recommended to the class of renowned pianist and pedagogue Isidore Philipp. He instilled in her the firm foundation of the technique that is on display here despite the inadequacies he found in her early musical education. Whilst she garnered acclaim for her playing it seems the path to success was a stony one and it was as a collaborative pianist that she was mostly occupied in the war years and into the 1920s; from the mid 20's her star began to rise, particularly in America where she performed with Serge Koussevitsky, Rudolf Ganz and Ernest Schelling amongst others. She returned there many times and even tried, unsuccessfully, to become a US citizen. Due to a lack of source material, details of her life are unknown from the period between 1951, when she travelled again to the USA with her mentor Philipp, to notice of her death in 1974.

The earliest recordings, made for Pathé here date from 1933-34. They are a curious mix; there is a marvellously coloured Fauré 4th Nocturne and an Andaluza that is simply buzzing with character but also a Weber Rondo brilliante that for all its astonishing fingerwork still has to slow down at times to get round the notes. The Fauré Impromptu shows the same fleet fingerwork but is more successful musically. Oddest of these early discs is the Schubert Impromptu in G-flat that opens the disc; I don't think I have ever heard it like this, melody soaring over triplets that occasionally comes across as a kind of spinning song with an awful lot of rubato and a real sense that she can't decide on a tempo. With both the Weber and Schubert I was reminded of Victor Staub's penchant for speed, noticeably his hyperspeed version of Daquin's Coucou (APR recordings APR6028). Boynet's Victor recordings date from October 1934 and January 1938. From the 1934 sessions there are two works by her teacher Philipp; a beautiful Nocturne and a deft and sparkling Feux-follets, easily the match of Guiomar Novaes' 1919 version as well as delightful miniatures by De Séverac and Ibert. A highlight of the 1938 sessions is the sumptious Nocturne en forme de valse by Gabriel Pierné that has something of the feel of a Fauré Nocturne or Barcarolle about it. The other selections are equally engaging, especially the silky lines of the Debussy Prélude or the energy of Chabrier's flamboyant Bourrée fantasque. My only issue here is the edge to the sound in the upper reaches of the keyboard. Disc 1 closes with four Polydor sides, recorded in 1939. Once again she pays homage to her teacher with four of Philipp's many transcriptions, here taken from his Ancient Airs and Dances. With something of Godowsky's Renaissance transcriptions, these are well-wrought re-imaginings of these pieces for the romantic era, played with warmth and a rich tonal palette; all are welcome additions to the discography.

Disc 2 is entirely dedicated to the two LPs of Fauré's piano works that Boynet recorded for Vox in the early 1950s. Fauré had been one of Boynet's teachers, at his invitation, when she returned to the Conservatoire at the start of the First World War and it is as if she were back with him, bringing a bright, confident youthful air to all these pieces. There is a miraculous delicacy of the virtuosic caprices in the Barcarolles so much so that the first of the three Romances sans paroles sounds a little heavy-handed in comparison. No such issue with the other two Romances, as fluid and lyrical as one could wish. The first LP also includes a delightful transcription of Fauré's song Clair de lune by Saint-Saëns pupil Albert Périlhou which is worth the price of the discs for me. The second LP contains six of the Nocturnes and opens with the early E-flat minor Nocturne, its melody hypnotically floating above its gently pulsing accompaniment. Once again Boynet's leggiero playing, the remarkable clarity of her articulation and the weightless quality she brings to quieter passages is a joy to listen to. I could single out the first, fourth and sixth of these pieces for special attention, but honestly this is a Fauré recital I shall treasure.

These recordings are a wonderful addition to this ever-growing series and I sincerely hope that there are more treasures to come.

Rob Challinor
Previous reviews: Stephen Greenbank ~ Jonathan Woolf

Impromptu in G-flat major D.899 No 3 (c.1827)[4:17]
Carl maria Von WEBER (1786-1826)
Rondo brilliante in E-flat major 'La gaité' Op 62 (1819)[4:20]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Nocturne No 4 in E-flat major Op 36 (1884)[6:37]
Impromptu No 2 in F minor Op 31 (1883)[3:17]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Cuatro piezas españolas No 4 - Andaluza (c.1906-09)[3:36]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) arr. Luigi PERRACHIO (1883-1966)
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV.711 (c.1707-1716)[2:52]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Sonata in C: Rondo Hob XVI:48 (c.1789)[3:25]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Dix Pièces pittoresques No 6 Idylle (1880-81)[3:38]
Bourrée fantasque (1891)[6:02]
Gabriel FAURÉ
Barcarolle No 5 in F-sharp minor Op 66 (1894)[6:21]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes Book 1 No 4 'Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir' (1909-10)[3:10]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Nocturne en forme de valse Op 40 No 2 (pub.1903)[6:08]
Isidor PHILIPP (1863-1958)
Nocturne Op 90 [3:41]
Pastels No 3 'Feux-follets' Op 24 No 3 [2:13]
Déodat de SÉVERAC (1872-1921)
Baigneuses au soleil (1908)[5:50]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Histoires No 9 'la marchande d'eau fraîche' (1922)[2:43]
Histoires No 2 'Le petit âne blanc' (1922)[1:54]
Leonardo VINCI (c.1690-1730) arr. Isidor PHILIPP
Largo [2:44]
Marco RUTINI (1723-1797) arr. Isidor PHILIPP
Minuetto vivace [3:22]
Bernardo PASQUINI (1637-1710) arr. Isidor PHILIPP
Air [3:15]
Pietro CASTRUCCI (1679-1752)
Sicilienne et gavotte [3:16]
Gabriel FAURÉ
Barcarolle No 1 in A minor Op 26 (1881)[4:36]
Barcarolle No 2 in G major Op 41 (1885)[5:30]
Barcarolle No 3 in G-flat major Op 42 (1885)[7:04]
Barcarolle No 4 in A-flat major Op 44 (1886)[3:28]
Barcarolle No 5 in F-sharp minor Op 66 (1894)[5:52]
Barcarolle No 6 in E-flat major Op 70 (1895)[3:06]
Trois Romances sans Paroles Op 17 (1863)[8:05]
Improvisation in C-sharp minor Op 84 No 5 (1869-1902)[2:00]
Nocturne No 1 in E-flat minor Op 33 No 1 (1875)[6:46]
Nocturne No 2 in B major Op 33 No 2 (1881)[5:31]
Nocturne No 3 in A-flat major Op 33 No 3 (1883)[4:14]
Nocturne No 4 in E-flat major Op 36 (1884)[6:34]
Nocturne No 6 in D-flat major Op 63 (1894)[8:21]
Nocturne No 7 in C-sharp minor Op 74 (1897)[8:14]
Gabriel FAURÉ arr. Albert PERILHOU (1846-1936)
Claire de lune Op 46 No 2 (1887)[2:53]

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