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Hyperion Records

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Les meules de foin à St Clement by Daniel de Monfreid (1856-1929)
Sotheby’s Picture Library
Track(s) taken from CDA67100
Recording details: January 1999
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: October 1999
Total duration: 21 minutes 56 seconds

'listen to this wonderful new disc from Philippe Graffin and Pascal Devoyon. From the turbulent emotions of the opening to the furiously driven moto perpetuo of the ultimately triumphant conclusion, they hold the listener spellbound … There is no doubt about the sheer pleasure which Graffin and Devoyon find in this music, with a performance enducing a wit and heartwarming intimacy that also extend to the smaller works … Strongly recommended’ (BBC Music Magazine)

'Fresh from the extraordinary success of his Saint-Saëns concertos, Philippe Graffin proves even more alluring in the French master's chamber music. This spellbinding performance had me lost in rapt concentration. The rarities that make up the rest of the disc are also sheer delight. A wonderful recording in every way' (Classic CD)

‘Philippe Graffin is the sensitive violinist who often conveys a sense of rapture in this music. Pascal Devoyon is a splendid partner in this welcome recording’ (MDC Classical Express)

‘Graffin is one of the most elegant violinists of the younger generation, his performances of Saint-Saëns having that rare thistledown quality that creates a remarkable crystalline beauty … In passages of more substance, he is equally persuasive, despatching technical difficulties with consummate ease … In Devoyon, he has a partner that matches his radiant readings, the clarity of articulation complementing Graffin’s silvery tone’ (Yorkshire Post)

Violin Sonata No 1 in D minor, Op 75

Allegro agitato  [6'49]
Adagio  [5'27]
Allegro moderato  [3'48]
Allegro molto  [5'52]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
In 1871, in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, Saint-Saëns was involved in founding the Société Nationale de Musique, dedicated to the promotion of French music. He was the Vice-President of the new society and its committee members included Franck, Fauré and Lalo. Concerts of chamber music formed an important part of the society’s activities and Saint-Saëns often appeared as a performer—at the premiere of the Franck Piano Quintet in 1879, for instance. On that occasion his partners were the Marsick Quartet, and it was to Martin Marsick that he dedicated his Sonata No 1 in D minor, for violin and piano, completed in 1885. (Marsick is chiefly remembered today as the editor of the popular Massenet Méditation, and the teacher, at the Paris Conservatoire, of Thibaud, Enescu and Carl Flesch.)

The Sonata is a broadly-conceived work, designed, like Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, to create a brilliant effect in performance, especially in the finale, with its moto perpetuo motif. The four movements are arranged in two groups of two—as Saint-Saëns was to do again the following year in the famous ‘Organ’ Symphony—so that the only break comes after the Adagio. The dark, passionate opening theme has a remarkable rhythmic freedom, with its syncopations, cross-accents, and constant changes of time-signature. Its continual development contrasts strongly with the haunting second theme which, though it appears in different keys and contexts and with changes of texture, remains unaltered in outline. Marcel Proust confessed that this sonata provided the model for the fictional sonata by Vinteuil that plays such an important part in Swann’s Way. We can identify this second theme as the ‘little phrase’ that was, in Monsieur Swann’s mind, so intensely associated with his love for Odette. Though Proust’s detailed description of a performance of the ‘Vinteuil’ sonata doesn’t quite fit the Saint-Saëns, the ‘little phrase’ does return in the finale just as M. Swann expects. It also effects the transition to the sensuous Adagio, whose main theme is beautifully formed as a dialogue between the two instruments—a dialogue where the roles are later reversed and, towards the end of the movement, elaborately decorated.

The delicate minor-key scherzo that follows is, most unusually, formed almost entirely from five-bar phrases. Saint-Saëns clearly enjoys exploring the implications of this scheme. The subdued colours of this piece provide a perfect foil to the bright D major of the finale with its dramatic contrasts and virtuosic panache.

from notes by Duncan Druce © 1999

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