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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Violin Concerto in D major (1931) [21:36]
Claude ARRIEU (1903-1990)
Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor (1949) [23:04]
Jeanne Gautier (violin)
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française/Jacques Pernoo (Stravinsky)/Eugène Bigot (Arrieu)
rec. July 1956 (Stravinsky) and December 1959 (Arrieu), Paris

It’s good that French violinist Jeanne Gautier’s relatively slim commercial legacy has been expanded with off-air examples of her art. She represented the incisive, resinous school of French violin playing, as opposed to the muscularity and intensity of the younger Ginette Neveu or the sensuous suavity of the older Jacques Thibaud.

Two concertos demonstrate the continuing validity of restoring her broadcasts. The first is the Stravinsky, made in July 1956 with Jacques Pernoo (1921-2003) conducting the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française. Once again, the typically boxy Parisian studio acoustic doesn’t flatter proceedings and there’s no cushioning for the strings, either for the soloist or the orchestral ranks. Nearing 60, she still plays with all her old biting incisiveness, and a sense of rapid characterisation through colour shading. Aria I is unusually lyric in her hands, its elegance enhanced by confiding slides, its introspective element more pronounced than usual. Her right-hand articulation here is superb. There are two very brief dropouts along the way. The melancholy expressive depth of Aria II increases the quotient of emotive richness in the performance. Indeed, there’s something profoundly romantic-orientated about Gautier’s reconciliation of the outer movements’ abrasive qualities and the two Arias’ more forlorn elements. This is a thought-provoking reading, both individual and strongly argued and well worth hearing even if – especially if – you think you know the highways and byways of the concerto.

Claude Arrieu’s Concerto No.2 was premiered by Gautier in January 1950 with André Cluytens conducting. She was still promoting it at the end of the decade and is captured here in December 1959 with Eugène Bigot on the rostrum. The recording quality is less razory than in the Stravinsky though there is also a rather recessive quality to the sound as well, so that the orchestra is not as forward in the mix as might be the case. Like her younger Czech contemporary Vladimir Sommer, Arrieu was clearly indebted to Prokofiev in the concerto, though the end of the opening movement summons up a brief Sibelian moment too – not something French composers often do. The athletic demands of the Grave movement, alternately austere and lissome, and the joyfully fresh and freewheeling Scherzo reveal a concerto full of contrast. The rather beautiful, almost Russo-filmic finale leads one to wonder why this concerto isn’t better known.

It helps in no small way that Jeanne Gautier is one’s guide and that the transfer has so successfully reproduced the two concerts.

Jonathan Woolf


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