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Forgotten Ferras
Christian Ferras (violin)
Pierre Barbizet (piano: Ravel Tzigane and Pavane, Massenet and Fauré),
Ernest Lush (piano: Kreisler, Sarasate), Shuku Iwasaki (piano: remainder)
rec. April 1971, Japan (w/Iwasaki), February 1951, Brussels (w/Barbizet), November 1948, London (w/Lush)

In the 1960s Herbert von Karajan recognized the unique, captivating playing of Christian Ferras, and the two made distinguished recordings of several of the big beasts of the violin concerto repertoire. I’ve always been an admirer and collected most of the violinist’s recordings over the years, so was intrigued when I saw the title ‘Forgotten Ferras’. In 1971 he toured Japan, and whilst there recorded 14 recital pieces not otherwise in his discography. His accompanist on that occasion was Shuku Iwasaki, a pianist who has worked with a roster of famous names including Paul Tortelier, Janos Starker, Itzhak Perlman, Ivry Gitlis, André Navarra and Lola Bobesco. Her collaboration with Ferras for a DG subsidiary resulted in an LP whose circulation never ventured beyond the shores of Japan. In 1982 it was re-released, this time in a truncated form, but again never made it to the West. Under the auspices of the Association Christian Ferras the tapes have been unearthed from the violinist’s estate and given a makeover, now appearing on CD for the first time. For fillers, we are treated to some gems from the early days of the violinist’s career, expertly transferred from pristine 78s. The earliest, from November 1948, features Ernest Lush at the piano, the remainder from 1951 sees Pierre Barbizet, his regular partner, in the accompanying role. The two Ravel pieces from that period are making their first appearance on CD.

Christian Ferras was born in Le Touquet, France in 1933. Having initial violin tuition from his father, he entered the Conservatoire de Nice aged eight and from there progressed to the Paris Conservatoire in 1944, where he won prizes for violin and chamber music. Georges Enesco was his mentor for a time. His early career was spent travelling the world and giving concerts. His art represents the very best attributes of the Franco-Belgian School with its emphasis on tone, timbre and colour. His life was to end tragically. Battling alcoholism and depression from the mid-sixties onwards, his career suffered as a result. He did, however, accept a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire in 1975, and made a comeback to concert-giving in the early part of 1982. This rehabilitation was only short-lived. Tragically, on 14 September 1982 he took his own life at the age of 49.

There’s plenty here to charm the ear, so I thought I would pick out a few of my favourites. Ferras seems to have a particular affinity with Spanish music, and the Granados, Albéniz and Sarasate pieces are idiomatic and seductively rendered. His highly individual portamenti are particularly effective in this music. Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin is infused with Viennese gemütlichkeit. Who cannot fail to be won over by his lush, velvety tone in Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op.55, No.4, and the same ardent lyricism permeates Tchaikovsky’s Andante cantabile. Drdla’s Souvenir is subtly nuanced and, in Ferras' hands, Massenet’s Méditation emits a luminous glow. The savagery, raw intensity and no-holds-barred approach to Ravel’s Tzigane works well. A thrilling tour-de-force, it showcases Ferras’ violinistic arsenal to perfection.

The Japanese recordings are warmly recorded and balance between the two instrumentalists is on an equal footing. The early recordings have also scrubbed up well. The booklet notes, in French and English, contain an interesting interview between their writer Jean-Michel Molkhou and Julien Szulman, a founding member of the Association Christian Ferras, on the genesis of this release.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

Complete tracklist:
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Tambourin, RCT 9, arr. Kreisler [1:47]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
String Quartet No.1 In D Major, Op.11, TH.111: Andante cantabile arr. Kreisler [4:34]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danzas espagnolas, Op.37 No.5 Andaluza arr. Kreisler [3:08]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
On Wings of Song, Op.34, No.2, S 547/R 217 arr. Achron [3:53]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Petite Suite, L.65 - En bateau arr. Gaston Choisnel [3:24]
Franz DRDLA (1869-1944)
Souvenir [3:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No.3 in D, BWV 1068 – Air on the G string arr. Wilhelmj [5:25]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Quintet in E Major, Op.11, No.5, G.275 – Menuetto [3:06]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pičce en forme de Habanera, M. 51 [2:40]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op.55, No.4, B.104 arr. Kreisler [2:27]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Menuet in G Major, WoO10, No. 2 [1:57]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Tango, Op.165, No.2, B. 37 arr. Kreisler [2:03]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Serenade (Ständchen), D.957, No.4 [3:35]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Schön Rosmarin [1:37]
Maurice RAVEL
Tzigane, M.76 [9:30]
Pavane pour une infante défunte, M.19 arr. Kochanski [4:25]
Praeludium and Allegro [5:05]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Romanza andaluza Op.22, No.1 [4:39]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation de Thaďs arr. Marsick [4:11]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse, op.16 [3:43]



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