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Hyperion Records

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Appletree and Red Fruit (c1902) by Paul Ranson (1863-1909)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas / Gift of Audrey Jones Beck / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67820
Recording details: November 2010
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: September 2011
Total duration: 18 minutes 9 seconds

'The instinctive artistic collaboration between Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien … is again brought to the fore in this perceptive and magically played programme of French chamber music … they have great fun with the wild gipsy flair of Tzigane, but you can tell that this spontaneity is born of deep understanding of the music’s character and of unshakeable rapport. In the entire programme the playing is of finesse and winning, communicative allure' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Just under their ease of delivery lie fire and muscle; and their dynamics and touch modulate even more than the music's keys. Ibragimova is especially adorable in the slow movement, tumbling gracefully, high in the air, through a melody that never seems to end … the best is yet to come. In the G major sonata's first movement Tiberghien stabs while Ibragimova soars, the contrast between them deliberately underlined, the better to generate extra power whenever they intertwine. The central blues movement is magnificently judged building up from coquettish whispers toward the darkly brazen … a triumph' (The Times)

'Ibragimova’s tone is taut, sweet and astringent, but with plenty of power in her bowing arm … while Tiberghien’s limpid touch and easy bravura are perfect for this music. The lovely central movement, très lent, is Lekeu’s masterpiece, done with exquisite intensity here … Ibragimova and Tiberghien do it proud' (The Sunday Times)

'This must count as one of the most satisfying surveys of Ravel's complete violin music in the catalogue' (The Strad)

'Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien possess the rare gift of being able to recreate on disc the same captivating spontaneity and musical intensity that distinguishes their concerts. Rarely have the sleek lines and textures of Ravel's two sonatas sounded so alluring, nor the manic drive of the Tzigane so deliriously intoxicating. Their sublimely articulate and sensitive account of the Lekeu Sonata surpasses even Menuhin's 1938 trailblazer' (Classic FM Magazine)

Violin Sonata No 2 in G major
1923/7; dedicated to Hélène Jourdan-Morhange

Blues: Moderato  [5'56]

Other recordings available for download
Krysia Osostowicz (violin), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
For both Debussy and Ravel, originality was important: Debussy’s motto was ‘toujours plus loin’ (‘ever further’) and Ravel was fond of exclaiming about his own discoveries that ‘personne n’avait fait ça’ (‘nobody has done that before’). If Ravel’s Quartet is to some extent a homage to Debussy’s, there are enough differences between the two works to make charges of plagiarism untenable. Similarly, whereas a superficial glance at the two men’s violin sonatas of 1923–7 and 1917 reveals a pair of three-movement works in G major, they are in fact concerned with utterly different materials and techniques.

Ravel said that his aim was to explore the basic incompatibility of violin and piano, and this lends an uneasy quality to much of the music. The long melodic line that starts the first movement looks, on paper, ‘romantic’. But Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, the violinist to whom he dedicated the sonata, felt it was suited rather to an oboe or a clarinet and spoke of the ‘indifference’ it requires. In any case it is soon interrupted by an angry, snapping little phrase in the piano’s left hand—‘You needed to hear Ravel, with his nervous fingers rather square at the ends, attacking this passage!’

In the central ‘Blues’, Ravel gave vent to his enthusiasm for jazz, as in the opera L’enfant et les sortilèges and the two piano concertos. He wanted the opening piano chords to sound like the plucking of metal strings and the instrument to maintain an implacable rhythm, against which the violin can indulge in freer slides and wailings. On his American tour in 1928, he used this movement to try and convince the critics that jazz was the way forward for American music, and couldn’t understand why they insisted in regarding it as unrespectable. Possibly they were aware of the undertow of pain in the movement. If so, the unrelenting finale only confirmed that this was not a typical work of the Silly Twenties. An earlier version of this movement had been more lyrical but, according to Ravel, not right for the work … and so ended in the fire. The American audiences did not know that Ravel was paying them a compliment by way of emulating Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote of the climax to his poem The Raven: ‘Had I been able, in the subsequent composition, to construct more vigorous stanzas, I should, without scruple, have purposely enfeebled them, so as not to interfere with the climacteric effect.’ Are beauty and truth synonymous, as Keats maintained? Or can energy and virtuosity be enough? Whatever the answer, for Ravel, as for us, the apparently effortless confidence of the String Quartet must have seemed a long way in the past.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Ravel & Debussy: String Quartets' (CDA67759)
Ravel & Debussy: String Quartets

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