Philippe Graffin / Claire Désert

Fiddler's Blues: Ysaÿe, Ravel, Debussy, Enescu

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The title Fiddler's Blues refers here only to the celebrated "Blues" slow movement of the Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major of Ravel; there's nothing particularly bluesy about the rest of the music on the album. Instead, French violinist Philippe Graffin offers a collection of French solo and piano-accompanied violin pieces, mostly little-known, and in three cases never before heard. The big news is the Sonate posthume pour violon seul, Op. 27bis: a seventh solo violin sonata to go with the existing six of Eugène Ysaÿe. Graffin found the work in manuscript at a library in Brussels, incomplete but largely having received its general shape, and completed it. One may speculate as to why the composer abandoned it; various good answers suggest themselves, from the coherence of the existing group of six to the difference in style of this one from the others: it's shorter, tonally more conservative, and generally simpler. This said, it's a genuine rediscovery of a work by a major composer, and to a non-violinist, the joints where Graffin has added material are not apparent. There's also a small work by Ysaÿe and an entirely original arrangement of Debussy's Clair de lune, a work you might not think would be susceptible to such a thing, for solo violin; these are both new. Elsewhere, there are two more major works, the Ravel sonata and a lively little-known sonata "dans le caractère roumaine," in the Romanian popular style, of Enescu. Any one of these might attract you (sample the first movement of the Enescu), and there are also short pieces by Ravel and Enescu to bring down the curtain. A delightful recital in the French tradition, with clean, circumspect accompaniment from pianist Claire Désert.

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