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Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
The Maures Mountains (1906/7) by Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910)
Private Collection / © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55396
Recording details: June 2001
Ulster Hall, Belfast, United Kingdom
Produced by Chris Hazell
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: March 2002
Total duration: 14 minutes 1 seconds

'Graffin's intelligent and characterful playing serves up a rare feast … ‘Rare’ is doubly true: the quality of the playing here deserves that adjective … lusciously scored and richly violinistic … such a combination of enterprise, imagination and responsive musicianship is rare indeed' (Gramophone)

'Everything here is delightful: the disc is a treasure trove of Gallic urbanity and fine technique … sumptuous … Philippe Graffin is one of the biggest young talents among French violinists—the programme seems to be his choice, which proves he has taste and discrimination, and is an excellent showcase for his talents' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Philippe Graffin is just the player for these delectable byways of late-Romantic French repertoire … pure sound, inflected by a magical range of legato bow strokes and vibratos … Graffin plays [the Fauré] as though he believes in every note—what sublime advocacy! Graffin and colleagues—Thierry Fischer and the Ulster Orchestra provide commendably alert and (where appropriate) fiery accompaniments throughout—once again turn a top-notch performance … superb performances, then, boldly and atmospherically engineered' (International Record Review)

'Delicious, decorous and very slightly old-fashioned, this programme of rarities is the quiet musical equivalent of a six-course dinner drawn from Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cookery … lovely playing' (The Independent on Sunday)

'Here, with a warm-blooded Ulster orchestra in support, [Graffin] brings a host of rare works to the fore. All are rewarding' (The Strad)

'Philippe Graffin is one of the most sensitive and refined of violinists; he is also a champion of lesser-known French music … Graffin’s reflective approach perfectly suits the elusive beauty of the remnants of Fauré’s early violin concerto' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Graffin plays with loving care, and the Ulster Orchestra under Thierry Fischer are with him in spirit all the way' (The Irish Times)

'Thanks to Philippe Graffin's bravura playing and rich accompaniments from the Ulster Orchestra and its new principal conductor Thierry Fischer, this anthology of 19th-century violin rarities delivers a spellbinding addition to the Hyperion catalogue' (Music Week)

'This is exactly the kind of disc that Hyperion has perfected over many years. Originally released roughly a decade ago to considerable acclaim it is now re-released on their budget Helios label. Excellence of this calibre available at bargain price makes it all but compulsory for anyone interested in rare repertoire for the violin who missed it first time around' (MusicWeb International)

'One of the most charming discs of French music it has been my pleasure to review … [the pieces] could well have been written for Graffin’s silky smooth playing, each work so lovingly shaped, the fast passages despatched with an easy virtuosity. In Fischer and the admirable Ulster Orchestra, Graffin has devoted colleagues, the engineers adding icing to the cake' (Yorkshire Post)

'One of the season's most alluring CDs' (Strings, USA)

'Thierry Fischer, à la tête d’un excellent Orchestre de l’Ulster, sert très bien son soliste, avec une légère tendance à la grandiloquence. Conclusion: un disque sans concurrence et rudement bien élaboré' (Classica, France)

Fantaisie norvégienne
September 1878; first performed by Sarasate under Max Bruch on 1 December

Andante  [4'41]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It is probably coincidental that Édouard Lalo finished writing his Fantaisie norvégienne at the time that the composer Johan Svendsen was moving into Sarasate’s Paris apartment in September 1878. However, the recent popularity of Norwegian music, from Svendsen’s own Rapsodies norvégiennes to Grieg’s chamber works and songs, cannot be without influence on its existence. We know that Svendsen—himself a renowned violinist—visited Lalo in November of that year, when it is probable that this Fantaisie was discussed. On the 13th of that month Lalo wrote to Sarasate, who was away on a long tour:

… I should be used by now to your silence sickness, but as I have been waiting for some news on ‘la norvégienne’, whom I still don’t know, I have been counting the days. Not seeing anything come from you, I had started to admit to myself that you did not like her, that I had missed its orchestration, and that you were backing off, day after day, for the moment when you were going to announce to me this sore failure.

Lalo gave up too early on his faithful friend and started to transform the Fantaisie into the now well-known orchestral work, Rapsodie norvégienne. Meanwhile Sarasate was already learning the piece, and soon after, on 1 December 1878, he gave the premiere with Max Bruch conducting. (This inspired Bruch to write his Scottish Fantaisie Op 46, written immediately afterwards for Sarasate and based on the same concept.)

Even though most of the thematic material of the Fantaisie norvégienne is derived from true folk songs and dances, which Lalo claimed to have found in a publication from Christianna, he used for the first part a song, ‘Fjeldlat’, extracted from Grieg’s Folkelivsbilder Op 19, published in 1872. A long controversy followed in which Lalo’s own son, the powerful music critic Pierre Lalo, felt the need to defend his father’s view that these were all genuine folk tunes twenty-five years after the composition was completed. Grieg, who once asked Lalo if he could take some lessons with him on instrumentation, didn’t seem to mind, writing to a friend: ‘… allow me, please, to take this small theft as a compliment’.

from notes by Philippe Graffin © 2002

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