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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67074
Recording details: November 1998
Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: August 1999
Total duration: 30 minutes 17 seconds

'Hyperion holds a trump card in Philippe Graffin, whose elegant, emotionally charged playing is strongly reminiscent of the young Menuhin (he has a similar sort of sound) and whose understanding of the idiom seems to me second to none – certainly among modern players' (Gramophone)

‘Philippe Graffin is fully equal to [the] formidable technical demands, and also strikes an essential spark illuminating the music’s character and passionate stimulus’ (The Daily Telegraph)

'The delightful surprise here is the Second Concerto, full of youthful exuberance. Philippe Graffin, with rich, firm tone, gives performances full of temperament, warmly supported by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish' (The Guardian)

'All are beautifully crafted, irresistibly violinistic and catchily tuneful. Graffin is a real stylist, a player in the Franco-Belgian tradition with exquisitely sweet and focused tone and enviable bravura in the technical high jinks Saint-Saëns demands of his soloist. A delectable issue' (The Sunday Times)

‘stylish performances and excellent sound’ (Classic FM Magazine)

'Graffin clearly believes in these works, delivering exhilarating and passionate interpretations throughout … an outstanding disc in every way' (Classic CD)

‘The French virtuoso Philippe Graffin is a sensitive and intelligent soloist, wonderfully attuned to Saint-Saëns’ conservative but always tasteful subtleties’ (The Scotsman)

‘There are few more exciting young fiddlers around at the moment than Frenchman Philippe Graffin. Three previous Hyperion releases of music by Ysaÿe and Chausson have already revealed Graffin’s abundant gifts, and in this generous new Saint-Saëns coupling … one can once again only marvel at playing of such thrilling temperament, consummate intelligence and stylistic flair’ (Hi-Fi News)

'The brilliant French violinist Philippe Graffin … demonstrates his skill on this new Hyperion recording' (The Evening Standard)

'Flawless performances' (Classical Ireland)

‘the young French violinist, Philippe Graffin, performs with great élan and virtuosity’ (Contemporary Review)

'An auspicious beginning for this new Hyperion series' (Classical Express)

Violin Concerto No 3 in B minor, Op 61

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Sarasate was the dedicatee of Saint-Saëns’ final violin concerto, written in 1880. In the twenty years that had elapsed since the A major Concerto he had produced four further concertos (Nos 2, 3 and 4 for piano, No 1 for cello). He had discovered, too, the ability to write instantly memorable melodies that is a feature of all his best-known music, and developed a colourful, romantic harmonic style, with modal inflections that cloud the tonality, and often substitutes more remote chords and keys for the ones we expect. When, in the first movement, he brings in the sensuously lyrical second subject, not in the key of G major which he has seemed to prepare, but in the more remote E major, we feel transported to a magical world far removed from the passionate directness of the concerto’s opening pages. This intense B minor mood, which surely offered inspiration for the violin concertos of Elgar and Bartók (No 2), is put into even sharper relief by the gentle barcarolle that forms the second movement, set in the extremely remote key of B flat major, with no attempt to effect a tonal transition. As in the C major Concerto’s Andante, Saint-Saëns delights in relating the solo violin to the contrasting individual voices of the woodwind, establishing an intimate chamber-musical atmosphere. The arpeggio passage near the close where the violin, playing harmonics (Sarasate was particularly fond of them), is joined by the clarinet, creates a strikingly original effect.

The finale begins with another abrupt key-switch, not straight back to B minor but to its close relative, E minor. Like Mendelssohn in his violin concerto, Saint-Saëns prefaces his last movement with an introduction—not meditative as in the earlier work, but a boldly dramatic dialogue in the style of a recitative. The main part of the finale has a bright, march-like character, and far from being the conventional lightweight concerto finale, it’s the most extended, complex movement of the three. There’s a wealth of memorable themes—a passionate subsidiary motif, a broad second subject, and a chorale which appears as quiet contrast but returns near the end in triumphal style to set the scene for a brilliant conclusion. One of the most impressive features of this concerto is the way Saint-Saëns integrates the element of virtuosity. No longer is the music divided neatly into cantabile or brilliant passages; instead, the virtuoso character can appear at any time, to add drama, excitement, or a decorative quality to the music. Certainly, Saint-Saëns ‘knows everything’. In this vivid, spirited work he shows more than technical wizardry. He knows how to enthrall and move us.

from notes by Duncan Druce © 1999

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