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Forgotten Records

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No.5 BWV1050 (1721) [22:54] ¹
Concerto for piano, flute and violin BWV1044 (after 1730) [23:56] ¹
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No.9 Op.47 Kreutzer (1803) [31:38] ²
Celiny Chailley-Richez (piano); Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute); Christian Ferras (violin); Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts de Chambre de Paris/George Enescu¹
George Enescu (violin); Celiny Chailley-Richez (piano)²
rec. 1950-52, Paris

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Compact programming ensures that George Enescu’s early 1950s Bach recordings with the instrumental trio of Celiny Chailley-Richez, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Christian Ferras are presented on a well-filled 78 minute disc. To the two Bach performances is added Enescu’s recording of the Kreutzer sonata with Chailley-Richez.
All the recordings feature the pianist, who was an Enescu colleague and friend, and with whom Enescu was also to record several other Bach concertos, including those for one, two, three and four pianos. The violin soloist, Ferras, was an Enescu student and Rampal was then at the start of his illustrious career. Enescu’s direction of the two Bach works, the Triple concerto and the Fifth Brandenburg, is wholly in keeping with his ethos. As with his recordings of the violin sonatas and partitas the pulse is slow, though not slow enough to allow phrase ends to taper unacceptably. The right tempo for Enescu, as he was frequently to say, was one that ensured that contrapuntal details were always audible and never obscured. His concern with the formal balancing of movements meant that there is a structural cohesion to his performances, even at the risk of sometimes labouring the finales.
Though the Bach recordings are, in places, just a touch cloudy, the three solo instruments are given a good, forward aural perspective. The Brandenburg sits wholly within Enescu’s interpretative prerogative; steady tempi, balanced architecture, clear voicings, harmonic and contrapuntal details pointed clearly. Chailley-Richez’s first movement is fine, and the three musicians make a sensitive team; at this point in their careers Rampal makes slightly more of an impression than Ferras, though the latter’s very personalised vibrato can be savoured.
There’s a bit of blasting in a blustery recording of the Triple Concerto. But the recording captures well Ferras’ pizzicato backing to Rampal’s flute cantilena in the central movement underpinned by the precise piano playing, and its occasionally dappled sensitivity. The finale is ponderous, notwithstanding Enescu’s stated desire for equality of structure, but this very stately approach is very much part of his aesthetic approach.
Enescu’s post-war violin recordings saw him in sad decline, exacerbated by some horrible physical problems. No one would listen to them and be unconscious of the frailties of left and particularly right hand. The intonation problems that plague him have been, kindly, ascribed to questions of expressive heightening but, pinched though the tone now is, this performance has always enshrined a conception of grandeur and a very personal sense of melancholy, which is, in part, what distinguishes it from any other performance. Enescu is so revered a figure that even this imperfect realisation of his conception is to be valued for what it tells us about his playing, and also about what his composer’s mind makes of the sonata.
Opus Kura (OPIC 7009) has released the sonata coupled with Schumann’s second sonata, again with Chailley-Richez, and a live slow movement from the Mendelssohn Concerto. Their transfer is more forward than FR’s with a touch more surface noise, though both have been transferred from commercial LP copies.
Jonathan Woolf  

Masterwork Index: Brandenburg concertos




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