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Ferras Europe MC2049

Christian Ferras (violin)
Concert tours in Europe 1961-74
MELOCLASSIC MC2049 [77:54 + 76:47]

Christian Ferras’ international career was well underway by the time he gave these performances. He’d been selected by Karl Böhm to play the Beethoven Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic as early as 1950 and he was still not yet 30 when the 60s began. It should have presaged a long and successful career, but Ferras’s life was complicated by drinking and gambling and his public career was effectively over by the mid-70s. His suicide in September 1982 was remarkable for one detail; he was still only 49.

The various recordings here have been well selected to amplify or extend his discography. The Lalo, which he did record in the studio, is heard in vivid, immediate sound in a big studio acoustic. It’s shorn of the Intermezzo. Ferras’ playing is confident, supple and refined with many a tell-tale slide and, in the finale, he is suave and richly voiced. The Mendelssohn, of which a studio recording with Silvestri has been much reissued, is heard here with Bogomir Leskovic in slightly less immediate sound. Ferras is sufficiently elastic phrasally and unusually expressive and intimate in the slow movement. Though the finale is fast it doesn’t especially feel so, such is Ferras’ control and the excellent ensemble between him and the WDR Symphony. The last item on the first disc is Chausson’s Poème which he would have known from his student days with Enescu (who left behind a magically-lovely, piano accompanied version). This too is part of his studio legacy but it’s valuable to have a live version, such as this, because it inspires him to a rather more febrile and quicker performance than one expects.

The second disc houses three live recordings, of which the first is Mozart’s Fourth Concerto with Helmut Müller-Brühl. Fastidious and largely clean, except for a few slides, Ferras’s sweet-toned playing and clever use of dynamics are major assets. So, too, is the ardour he displays in the slow movement where, once again, he has recourse to portamenti to fleck the expressive line. The smallish-sounding orchestra is so-so. A souvenir of his Bach, from the same concert, follows. Tzigane is played with requisite awareness of its hallucinatory effects but the main interest in this second disc lies in the two works that are new to Ferras’ discography. The first is Robert de Fragny’s Danubiana. De Fragny – a little internet sleuthing tells me – was a pseudonym for the polymathic Robert Proton de La Chapelle, a long-lived and culturally sensitive commentator, notably on musical matters. The recording of Dunubiana, made with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and the orchestra of l’ORTF is its world premiere. It’s only nine minutes long, about the same as Tzigane in fact, and it reflects his admiration for Ravel, sounding like La Valse at times – though it's also filmic, rhythmic, and zesty. These aren’t things that could be said of the Schoenberg Violin Concerto, the other work new to his discography, and an important addition. Miltiades Caridis accompanies in 1974. This might be an example of Ferras recalibrating his repertoire shortly before his disastrous 1975 North American tour where he suffered a heart attack. In any case, recalibration or not – and there is some evidence that he wanted to expand his repertoire - he plays with exemplary control and insight into its complexities.

This is a fine release that presents broadcast and live material both central to Ferras’ repertoire and new to it. Everything is in first class sound and the documentation is excellent too.

Jonathan Woolf

Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole in D Minor, Op 21 (1873) [25:02]
Orchestre de RTL/Louis de Froment
rec. 22 March, Luxembourg, Radiostudio, RTL Radio Studio Recording
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op 64 (1844) [26:49]
WDR Sinfonieorchester/Bogomir Leskovic
rec. 29 April 1964, Köln Großer Sendesaal, WDR Radio Studio Recording
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Poème (1896) [16:02]
Orchestre lyrique de l’ORTF/Jean Claude Hartemann
rec. 9 May 1969, Paris Maison de l’ORTF, Radio Studio Recording
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No 4 in D Major, KV 218 (1775) [23:16]
Kölner Kammerorchester/Helmut Müller-Brühl
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Gavotte en Rondeau (from Partita No 3, BWV 1006) [2:57]
rec. 3 August 1968, Menton Parvis de l’église Saint-Michel, WDR Live Recording
Robert de FRAGNY (1894-1982)
Danubiana pour violon et orchestre (1964: world premiere) [8:57]
Orchestre national de l’ORTF/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
rec. 9 September 1964, Besançon, Théatre municipal ORTF, Live Recording
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane ‘Rapsodie de concert’ (1924) [9:09]
Orchestre lyrique de l’ORTF/Jean Claude Hartemann
rec.16 May 1969, Paris Maison de l’ORTF, Radio Studio Recording
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1936) [32:25]
ORF Symphonieorchester/Miltiades Caridis
rec. 11 October 1974, Graz Stephaniensaal, ORF Live Recording

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