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Boisdeffre violin v2 AP0513
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René de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Works for Violin and Piano 2
Troisième Sonate pour piano et violon op. 67 (c. 1894) [33:29]
Berceuse pour violon et piano op. 34 [3:24]
Doux sommeil. Berceuse pour violon et piano op. 38 no. 5 (c. 1904) [2:49]
Messe de Notre Dame de Sion – Offertoire pour violon et piano op. 47 (c. 1892) [4:25]
Deux Morceaux pour violon et piano op. 57 (c.1894) [7:03]
Andante espressivo op. 63 no. 3 (pub 1930) [4:53]
Romance pour violon et piano op. 73 (c.1894) [5:27]
Sérénade pour violon et piano op. 74 (c.1894) [2:01]
Deux Morceaux op. 77 (c.1895) [8:31]
Chant d’Église pour violon et piano op. 89 (c.1898) [4:23]
Sérénade printanière pour violon et piano op. 93 [3:55]
Andrzej Kacprzak (violin)
Anna Mikolon (piano)
rec. March-April 2021, Concert Hall of the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music, Gdańsk, Poland

I’ve listened to a significant amount of music by René de Boisdeffre, all of it in Acte Préalable’s releases, though I haven’t always reviewed it. His works are invariably well crafted, melodious and attractive though in my experience seldom truly memorable. However, in the case of the Third Violin Sonata of c.1894, a large-scale four movement piece, the voltage is considerably higher than I’ve encountered before.

It was dedicated to Alfred Brun, concertmaster of the Paris Opera orchestra, and though there are no details in the booklet notes of its performance history its publication by J.Hamelle is likely to have stimulated violinists to take it up. It’s couched in late-Romantic form with cyclical (post-Franckian) elements but the thing that sticks in the memory is its thematic strength. Whether in more athletic moments or in quietly expressive, introspective ones, de Boisdeffre’s imagination is at its zenith in this work. The B section of the first movement is one of the strongest pieces of writing I’ve heard in his works, and the plaintive quality enshrined in the long 15-minute opening movement is extremely convincing. It’s strange that his themes should here be so defined and assured, where elsewhere in his music he can incline to the watery and salon-diffuse. With an agile Allegretto and a lyrical, eloquent slow movement, during which one can admire Andrzej Kacprzak’s astutely judged finger position changes, it’s clear that this is a piece worth hearing, even before the comic touches of the finale, with its charmingly contrasted central section. That this is a well-constructed work is obvious, predicated as it is on traditional lines. But nothing I’d heard from the composer before had quite prepared me for the strength of purpose and generosity of the sonata.

This near-34-minute sonata provides the ballast for a programme which has a raft of sweetmeats. These charming morceaux are more the kind of thing I associate with the composer. There’s an evocative and small-scaled Doux sommeil, and the sweetly lyrical Offertoire from the Messe de Notre Dame de Sion – though it seems as if it isn’t part of this extant Mass, as such, and exists only in this standalone form. He always has a talent for the contrastive diptych, such as the Andante religioso and Chanson arabe that make up the Deux Morceaux, even if so bold a contrast is somewhat predictable. His default ethos is that of a sympathetic Andante espressivo, and you’ll find a number of examples in this volume; in fact you’ll find one of the same name, which was originally written for cello but is heard here in violin transcription. He is also adept at the barcarolle, and there’s good example here in his Op.77 where one finds Le Chant du nautonnier. If the Sérénade printanière reminds me of anything, it’s Fauré’s Dolly suite.

Kacprzak and Anna Mikolon form a strong team and respond to the demands of the sonata with commendable attention to detail and expressive weight. They don’t inflate the smaller pieces beyond their natural span. The recording is sympathetic, and the notes fine, as is usual from this label.

Jonathan Woolf

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