CHRISTIAN FERRAS
SIBELIUS: Violin concerto in D minor, Op. 47. STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto in D. Chanson russe. FRANCK: Sonata in A. BACH: Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006 (Prelude). FAURÉ: Berceuse, Op. 16 DINICU: Hora staccato.
Christian Ferras, violinist; French National Radio Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond. (Sibelius)/Jean Fournet, cond. (Stravinsky)/Pierre Barbizet, piano (Franck); Robert Weisz, piano (Stravinsky Chanson); Pierre Petit, pianist (Fauré, Dinicu). BONUS: MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K 218 (Zino Francescatti, violinist; Paris Conservatory Orch/Jerzy Semkow, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVA 4904449
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ARTHUR GRUMIAUX
MENDELSSOHN: Violin concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (French National Radio Orch/Manuel Rosenthal, cond.). BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (French National Radio Orch/Antal Dorati, cond.) PAGANINI: Caprice in E flat, Op. 1 No. 14. BACH: Partita No. 2 in D minor (Sarabande). BLOCH: Baal Shem: II Nigun (both with André Chometon, piano). BONUS: SAINT-SAËNS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28. (Ivry Gitlis, violinist; Georges Pudermacher, pianist)
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVA 4904469
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HENRYK SZERYNG
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (Paris Conservatory Orch/Paul Paray, cond.). BARTOK: Romanian Folk Dances. LECLAIR: Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in D, Op. 9 No. 3. BRAHMS: Hungarian Dance No. 17 in F minor. RAVEL: Tzigane. BACH: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor BWV 1001 (Fuga). LOCATELLI: Caprice in D minor, Op. 2 No. 23 "Il labirinto armonico." NOVACEK: Perpetual Motion. DEBUSSY: La plus que lente. MOZART: Serenade No. 7 in D, K. 250 (Rondeau). KREISLER: Recitativo and Scherzo-caprice, Op 6.
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Here we have an opportunity to view three aristocrats of the violinistic world in performances when all three were at their finest, rare videos some of which are appearing for the first time. Christian Ferras (1933-1982) is a tragic figure in the music world. A child prodigy, he first appeared as soloist with an orchestra when only nine, later winning many prizes. He worked with Georges Enescu whose music he championed, later appearing often with pianist Pierre Barbizet who is heard in one performance on this DVD. In 1951 Ferras was invited by Karl Böhm to perform the Beethoven concerto in Berlin and at that time they recorded the work. Ferras also recorded the Beethoven concerto with Carl Schuricht in Vienna in 1954, later with Karajan and the Berlin Phiharmonic. Ferras was a favorite of Karajan and they also recorded the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concertos. During his brief career, Ferras played much contemporary music, making premiere recordings of concertos of Elizalde, Nigg and Bando, and performed Alban Berg's concerto often, although he never recorded it. In spite of his successful career, Ferras experienced depression and in 1975 retired from pubic performance. He took his own life in 1982, at a time when it was rumored he might restart his career. His death was a major loss to the musical world, evidenced by the magnificent performances on this DVD. This performance of the Sibelius concerto from a concert May 26, 1965 with the RTF Orchestra conducted by a very youthful Zubin Mehta recorded at the ORTF in Paris, is one of the finest you'll ever hear of this demanding work. Stravinsky's violin concerto was recorded at ORTF February 8, 1967 with the ORTF Philharmonic conducted by Jean Fournet. This performance is valuable as Ferras never recorded the work; unfortunately the orchestra sounds under-rehearsed. The other major work on this DVD is Franck's Sonata with Barbizet filmed in Paris January 29, 1963. Apparently Ferras gave a number of recitals for French television as we also have the Prelude from Bach's Partita No. 3 filmed May 19, 1958, Stravinsky's Chanson russe, with pianist Robert Weisz from December 17. 1963, and Fauré's Berceuse and Dinicu's Hora staccato, with pianist Pierre Petit, filmed November 8, 1973, the latter from what apparently was an informal salon performance before a small group of listeners. All performances are filmed in black/white with reasonably effective camera work giving us ample opportunity to observe the violinist close-up. Ferras was a handsome man rather resembling actor Hurd Hatfield in The Picture of Dorian Gray. It's interesting that in the performance of the Sibelius concerto Ferras sports a moustache; in the other performances he does not. A substantial "bonus" for this DVD is Zino Francescatti's performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 from a concert filmed in Ax-en-Provence July 30, 1967, with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Jerzy Semkov. Welcome though this is, it's unfortunate more performances by Ferras weren't included instead.

Arthur Grumiaux is another aristocrat of the violin, born in Belgium March 21, 1921. He studied with Alfred Dubois and later with George Enescu in Paris and scored a great success in 1939 playing the Mendelssohn concerto in Brussels with Charles Munch conducting. Grumiaux's career flourished both as a solo concert artist, with orchestra, and with chamber ensembles. He died at Ukkel, near Brussels, October 16, 1986. Grumiaux left a number of fine recordings including two magnificent performances of the Beethoven concerto with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, one in 1957 with Eduard van Beinum conducting, the other in 1974 with Sir Colin Davis on the podium. On this DVD we view Grumiaux performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor with the RTF National Orchestra, a concert filmed at the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice, January 22, 1961, conducted by Manuel Rosenthal (who was only 57 at the time; he died in 2003 at the age of 99!), as well as Paganini's Caprice No. 14. We also have a performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the same orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati filmed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, February 4, 1965. Bach's Chaconne from the Partita No. 2, and Nigun from Bloch's Baal Shem recorded in Paris March 21, 1967 are also included. From a performance filmed in the Netherlands May 14, 1962 we have the Sarabande from Bach's Partita No. 2. The "bonus" is an incendiary reading of Ravel's Tzigane played by the legendary dynamic Ivry Gitlis (b. 1922).

Polish-born Henryk Szeryng (September 22, 1918 - March 3, 1988) made rapid progress in his studies, playing Mendelssohn's concerto for Bronislaw Huberman when he was only ten. In 1933 he made his Warsaw debut and continued to win major prizes until the war interrupted his career. Szeryng joined the Polish government in exile as an interpreter (he spoke eight languages) and gave more than 300 concerts for Allied forces all over the world. In 1951 he escorted four thousand Polish exiles to Latin America for asylum in Mexico and liked the country so much that he settled there four years later. He became a citizen of Mexico and championed music by its composers, with Manuel Ponce and Carlos Chávez dedicating works to him. In 1954 Szeryng met Artur Rubinstein who played a major role in the violinist's career. The two gave concerts together and, with cellist Pierre Fournier, performed as a trio. Internationally recognized, Szeryng made many recordings including the Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos with Haitink and the Concertgebouw, the Brahms concerto with Monteux and the London Symphony, as well as a number of recordings with Rubinstein. As DVD notes state, "Szeryng held his instrument very high, as if to compensate for his shortness of stature, a posture which gave his concert appearances a professorial quality. He also held his right elbow aloft, reinforcing this impression. he placed remorseless demands upon himself, giving his playing a precision and a transparency that were absolute in all circumstances." All of this is evident in performances seen on this DVD almost all of which are from French telecasts of 1962-1964, the major work is the Brahms concerto with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Paul Paray from December 1962 (in a concert hall with five chandeliers over the orchestra). The solo works of Leclair, Brahms, Ravel, Bach, Locatelli, Suk and Novácek are with Szeryng's long-time accompanist, pianist Tasso Janopoulo. The "bonus" of works of Mozart and Kreisler are filmed in color from a BBC telecast of January 31, 1975, with pianist Michael Isador.

All three of these DVDs are essential for those interested in the art of the violin.

R.E.B. (March 2004)