> Nos Souvenirs Laurent Korcia [TH]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Rêve d’enfant, Op. 14

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Sonata for violin and piano No.1 in A major, Op.13

Ernst CHAUSSON (1855-1899)

Nos souvenirs

Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)

Sérénade espagnole

César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Sonata for violin and piano in A major

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Beau soir

Laurent Korcia (violin)
Jean-Marc Luisada (piano)
Recorded in Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh, 19-23 April, 2001
RCA RED SEAL 74321 877622 [69.00]

This is a well-constructed programme of Romantic French violin music, carefully mixing lighter, encore style pieces with two of the big, core repertoire sonatas. It makes for an intriguing and highly enjoyable listen, especially when playing and recording are of the highest standard.

To start with the two most important works on the disc, I would say the Franck receives as good a studio rendition as I’ve encountered for a while. My benchmark has always been Perlman and Ashkenazy’s classic account on Decca, a big-boned, thoroughly hyper-romantic performance that pulls no punches. The present version is very different, and presents a viable and welcome contrast. Korcia and Luisada go much more for subtlety and understatement, saving the virtuosic swagger and panache for the suitable climactic points. Thus in the first movement, the gently swaying 9/8 opening is beautifully balanced between the partners, a real molto dolce pianissimo as marked. During the build-up to the second subject, the molto rit. is correctly left until the bar before the new theme, which then has an overwhelming impact, Luisada unleashing the forte e largamente asked for by the composer. This movement is, I think, wholly successful in being seen in the wider context of the whole work, as part of a cyclic structure, with rubato only very tastefully employed. The turbulent, almost Lisztian second movement allows the players to show their technical capabilities, especially the pianist, and it is thrilling. The third movement, given the title Recitativo-Fantasia, is like a mini-Wagnerian tone poem all of its own, except of course that the freely improvisatory impression hides a carefully integrated structure. Here the limpid purity of Korcia’s violin tone really comes into its own, and he is well matched by the subtle, chromatic wanderings of Luisada’s piano. The finale, praised by one contemporary critic as "the best example of canon writing since Bach", suits these players’ styles as well as any movement, and the inexorable progress of the music, from simplicity to impassioned climax, is wonderfully realised. This great work really is done full justice, though it’s a pity the proof reading in the booklet wasn’t as thorough as the playing – it refers to the Franck as "one of the pinnacles of 18th Century music"!

The classical purity of tone and feeling for line and structure also pay big dividends in the Fauré. His early masterpiece, which is redolent of the composer’s first romantic ardour, is given a reading at once poised, but also with a passionate sweep where required. The players’ quest to eschew any unwanted sentimentality is apparent from the start, where the Allegro molto is kept in check by the strength of the line, rubato again kept to a minimum. The andante is kept firmly on the move, though what a gorgeous dolcissimo is achieved at 2.36, another example of waiting for the right moment. The allegro vivo third movement is as nimble fingered as any, and what the finale may lack in fiery temperament (of the sort we get with Amoyal and Rogé on Decca) is more than compensated for in beauty of phrasing and clarity of texture.

The smaller items are entirely appropriate and enjoyable. The Franck Sonata is dedicated to Ysaÿe, who gave the premiere, and his touching little Rêve d’enfant is a reminder of a type of bitter-sweet salon piece, once very much in vogue and beloved of violinists. The Chausson Nos souvenirs is a transcription of one of his Quatre Mélodies Op. 8, and is again tinged with nostalgia and longing. The Chaminade is a Kreisler transcription, and the little-known Debussy also a transcription (Heifetz this time) of a song based on a poem by Bourget. All are superbly done, with restraint and poise balanced by fireworks where necessary.

A word about the packaging. RCA have gone for a four-piece opening case, which is a nice alternative to the easily damaged plastic jewel-case, but they should pay more attention to notes. These are not only poorly translated and proof-read, but in places are virtually impossible to read, being covered by masses of trendy artwork so beloved of record companies today – you know the sort of thing, pin-up shots, moody close-ups of the artists etc. This may, of course, have its appeal to a younger generation, but reading well-researched liner notes is more pleasurable to most music lovers.

Recording quality is superb throughout (Snape Maltings, Mike Hatch), and no one interested in French violin music of the 19th century should miss it.

Tony Haywood

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