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Christian Ferras (violin)
The Complete HMV and Telefunken Recordings
rec. 1953-68
WARNER 9029576308 [13 CDs: 812 mins]

There have been a few larger sets devoted to Christian Ferras over the last decade but this 13-CD box is probably the most comprehensive thus far released. It’s devoted to his HMV and Telefunken recordings which stretch from 1953 to 1968, a number of which will be very familiar.

The mono Franck and Fauré A minor sonatas with long-time collaborator Pierre Barbizet occupy the first disc. I’ve always found Ferras’ vibrato too wavery at moments in the Franck but the performance itself is very beautiful and refined, notwithstanding my own feelings. The later stereo remake (not here) was rather faster. That’s not true of the Fauré which remained consistent and both mono and stereo readings – the latter disc also includes the E minor sonata – show a comparable beauty to that of Bobesco and Genty.

The Ferras-Barbizet partnership is also represented by the complete Beethoven sonata cycle, mono recordings made at Salle Wagram in 1958, which occupies three discs. The pianist was mentor to the younger Ferras – in fact they would spend long car journeys singing phrases to each other from their chamber repertoire – and so it’s to be expected that Barbizet proves just as joyful an exponent of this repertoire as Ferras. The Spring is supple and elegant, as it is in the earlier Teldec reading from Hamburg in 1953, and No.8 has requisite nervous energy and allied lyricism. The Kreutzer is well-sprung and full of the right detonatory spirit; robust, imaginative and sensitive in the variations. No.10 is well-balanced: Barbizet’s left hand is alert and spry in its finale. There’s a debut digital release for the recording of the First Sonata in D that was made in stereo in 1962.

Ferras followed Meuhin’s lead in Enescu’s Third Sonata, playing it with a coiling but beguiling intensity shorn of all vulgarity. This idiomatic and passionate performance is a real highlight of his discography. His Debussy Sonata (1962, stereo) is not dissimilar to Francescatti’s – quite clean-cut and admirably direct - if lacking the frisson that Dubois and Thibaud had earlier brought to it in their very different ways.

The mainstays of Ferras’s concerto repertory can be found here including the famous Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn recordings of June 1957. By one of those quirks of fate the Frenchman had to come to London to record them with Silvestri and the Philharmonia, whilst Silvestri had to go to Paris to record them both with the Russian Kogan. Bruch’s G minor and Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole share disc space, both conducted the following year by Süsskind. The latter is in the four-movement form but then Francescatti didn’t record the Intermezzo either. There’s quality of reserve in the Andante that reflects Ferras’ more aristocratic scruples.

Bach’s Double Concerto with Menuhin and his Bath Festival Orchestra was a Kingsway Hall recording whilst the Beethoven, with Kreisler’s cadenzas, followed a few months later, Sargent taking the helm with the RPO. Sargent is attentive as he usually was. The two Romances are monos with Leopold Ludwig in Hamburg in 1955. The Mozart Fourth and Fifth Concertos date from 1960 with André Vandernoot. Perhaps he is not quite the equal of Grumiaux and Szeryng in this repertory, but his beautiful silvery tone is heard to best advantage in the slow movements. His tight trills, unobtrusive vibrato, and Joachim cadenzas are all expertly dispatched.

The Brahms Double unites Ferras with Tortelier and Paul Kletzki for an admirable reading but even better is the 1963 recording of the Berg with Prêtre. Perhaps it’s his purity of expression that leads with such cumulative intensity to an overwhelming peroration but for me this is one of his greatest concerto readings. As a bonus you will also find the first digital release of Berg’s Chamber Concerto with Barbizet and wind members of the orchestra. One of the odder pieces in his repertoire was the Hungarian Concerto of Gyula Bando. Most critics don’t seem to rate Elizalde’s Concerto, which isn’t in this box but which Ferras recorded with Gaston Poulet, but I have to admit I prefer it to Bando’s Concerto. Bando’s work has interesting sonic effects and lightly heralded terpsichorean moments, as well as ones that do also seem to mine Berg, but it doesn’t really hang together, finely though it’s played.

Add to these performances a lovely version of Chausson’s Concert with Barbizet and the Parrenin Quartet – made between November 1966 and January 1968 - and a 1953 recording of Brahms’ Third Sonata with Barbizet, complete with a fearful edit in the finale, and the box is complete.

It comes with a good booklet essay from Jean-Michel Molkhou. The transfers are generally good as well, though not always exceptional. Nevertheless, this box offers 14 hours of splendid music-making from a distinguished, penetrating and thoughtful artist.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1
César Franck 1822–1890
Violin Sonata in A
Gabriel Fauré 1845–1924
Violin Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13
Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 13–14 (Fauré) & 14–17, 19–20 (Franck) V.1957 • MONO

CD 2
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840–1893
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.35
Felix Mendelssohn 1809–1847
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Philharmonia Orchestra
Constantin Silvestri conductor
Recorded: 26–28.VI.1957 • STEREO

CD 3
Max Bruch 1838–1920
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Édouard Lalo 1823–1892
Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op.21
Philharmonia Orchestra
Walter Süsskind conductor
Recorded: 25.VII.1958 (Bruch); 26.VII.1958 (Lalo) • STEREO

CD 4
Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827
Violin Sonata No.1 in D, Op.12 No.1
Violin Sonata No.2 in A, Op.12 No.2
Violin Sonata No.3 in E-flat, Op.12 No.3
Violin Sonata No.4 in A minor, Op.23

CD 5
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Sonata No.5 in F, Op.24 ‘Spring’
Violin Sonata No.6 in A, Op.30 No.1
Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor, Op.30 No.2

CD 6
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Sonata No.8 in G, Op.30 No.3
Violin Sonata No.9 in A, Op.47 ‘Kreutzer’
Violin Sonata No.10 in G, Op.96
Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 17–24.XI.1958 • MONO

CD 7
Johann Sebastian Bach 1685–1750
Double Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043
Yehudi Menuhin violin • conductor
Bath Festival Orchestra
Recorded: 8.VII.1959 • STEREO
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Concerto in D, Op.61
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Malcolm Sargent conductor
Recorded: 8–10.XII.1959 • STEREO
Romanze in G, Op.40 7.19
Romanze in F, Op.50 8.15
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester, Hamburg
Leopold Ludwig conductor
Recorded: 8 & 10.I.1955 • MONO • Debut Digital Release

CD 8
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756–1791
Violin Concerto No.4 in D, K218
Violin Concerto No.5 in A, K219
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire
André Vandernoot conductor
Recorded: 19–20.IX.1960 • STEREO

CD 9
George Enescu 1881–1955
Violin Sonata No.3 in A minor, Op.25 ‘dans le caractère populaire roumain’
Claude Debussy 1862–1918
Violin Sonata in G minor
Maurice Ravel 1875–1937
Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 30.V. & 7.VI. (Ravel), 5–7.VI. (Enescu), 6–7.VI.1962 (Debussy) • STEREO

CD 10
Johannes Brahms 1833–1897
Double Concerto in A minor, Op.102
Paul Tortelier cello
Philharmonia Orchestra
Paul Kletzki conductor
Recorded: 22–23.VI.1962 • STEREO
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Sonata No.1 in D, Op.12 No.1
Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 29–30.V. & 7.VI.1962 • STEREO • Debut Digital Release

CD 11
Alban Berg 1885–1935
Violin Concerto ‘To the memory of an angel’
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire
Georges Prêtre conductor
Recorded: 7–9.I.1963 • STEREO
Chamber Concerto for violin, piano and 13 wind instruments
Pierre Barbizet piano
Winds of the Orchestre de la Société des concerts du Conservatoire
Georges Prêtre conductor
Recorded: 17–20.IX.1962 • STEREO • Debut Digital Release

CD 12
Gabriel Fauré
Violin Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13
Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor, Op.108
Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 21–25.IX.1964 • STEREO
Gyula Bando 1903–1989
Hungarian Concerto (Magyar Hegedu?verseny)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire
Alain Lombard conductor
Recorded: 11–13.VI.1963 • STEREO

CD 13
Ernest Chausson 1855–1889
Concert in D, Op.21 for piano, violin & string quartet
Pierre Barbizet piano
Parrenin Quartet
Jacques Parrenin • Marcel Charpentier violins • Denès Marton viola • Pierre Renassou cello
Recorded: 17–19.IX.1966 & 8.I.1968 • STEREO
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Sonata No.5 Op.24 ‘Spring’
Johannes Brahms
Violin Sonata No.3, Op.108

Pierre Barbizet piano
Recorded: 15.V.1953 • MONO • Debut Digital Release



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