André Jolivet, Albert Roussel, César Auguste Franck, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Gabriel Fauré, Guillaume Lekeu, Henry Vieuxtemps, Louise Farrenc, Maurice Ravel, Rhené Emmanuel Baton
The works in this collection emerged from the genre of duo concertant initially conceived as showcases for the virtuosity of Nicolò Paganini and his successors in the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing, notably Henry Vieuxtemps. He and Louise Farrenc remain attractive outliers in the chronology of French violin sonatas, which began proper in 1877 with the first performance of Fauré’s First Sonata, followed in short order by comparably significant works by Saint-Saëns and Franck.
These three works considered together form a trinity linked by features which came to define the character of the French violin sonata as a genre over the next few decades: recitative-like sections, cyclical form, modal techniques and organ-like pedal points, especially in the piano part – all three composers having spent a good part of their career as titular organists at landmark churches in Paris.
A further spur to the flood of of violin sonatas from Paris during the first decades of the 20th century was the abundance of superb performers who had made Paris their home: foremost among them Pablo Sarasate, Eugène Ysaÿe, Georges Enescu and Jacques Thibaut. The Wagnerian shadow falling over works by Roussel and Lekeu is decisively dispelled by Debussy’s late and sinuous masterpiece, and then more radically by Ravel in the lazy, seductive Blues of his Sonata.
The collection evolves further with a bold Sonata of 1932 by André Jolivet, whose movement titles advertise his rejection of the classical forms honoured by previous rarities – not only Louise Farrenc but also Rhené-Emmanuel Bâton, who composed in a richly mystical but traditional idiom as an outlet for the creative urges accumulated and repressed like Mahler during his occupation as a conductor.
Nearly all the recordings are original Brilliant Classics releases, welcomed warmly on their first release and compiled here with a new booklet note to present the most complete available survey of French violin sonatas on record.
‘The First Violin Sonata opens with a vigorous dance-like movement that made me think of a showered and shaved Bartók Hun… the players seem comfortable and at home in these works.’ Fanfare (Rhené-Bâton)
‘A brilliant exposition of the composer’s masterful talent… Monteiro and Santos are the superior interpreters, greatly attuned to Lekeu’s long lines and haunting, borderline macabre atmosphere.’ Fanfare Lekeu)
‘The Italian musicians are fully in tune with the joyful spontaneity and vibrancy of this music. I earlier praised the versatility and fine musicianship of Mauro Tortorelli… Warmly recommended.’ Fanfare (Milhaud)
- A rich and extensive selection of violin sonatas written by French composers, mainly in the first half of the 20th century. The style develops from full blooded Romanticism of Franck, Saint-Saëns and Vieuxtemps, through the Impressionism of Debussy, Ravel and Roussel towards that typically French style, which is difficult to pigeonhole, of Fauré, Poulenc, Lekeu, and expressionists Milhaud and Jolivet, music brimming with charm, elegance, wit and joie de vivre.
- Performed by excellent violinists like Kristóf Baráti, Krysia Osostowicz, Mauro Tortorelli and pianists Klára Würtz, Angela Meluso, Susan Tomes and Matteo Fossi.