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Lennox in Paris

Emmanuel Bach (violin), Jenny Stern (piano) (Willowhayne)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Lennox in Paris
L Berkeley: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonatina; Elegy & Toccata, Op. 33; L Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps; Two Pieces; Poulenc: Violin Sonata etc
Emmanuel Bach (violin), Jenny Stern (piano)
Willowhayne WHR070   73:31 mins

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A better title might be ‘Homage to Nadia’, since Nadia Boulanger is the thread connecting these three composers. The pieces by her younger sister, Lili, confirm the sense of loss one feels at her early death, far outpacing, as they do, the 19th-century notion of the ‘lady composer’. I would prefer to have the piano’s staccato notes free of pedal, but otherwise the performers do justice to these short works, especially to the Nocturne with its echoes of Debussy’s Faune.

Lennox Berkeley never published his First Violin Sonata, and I can’t say I regret this – it’s mostly an imitation of the gritty Honegger – but the Sonatina and the Elegy and Toccata, written in England, show him at his best, and inspire the best playing. I don’t feel, though, that the players are really happy in the Poulenc Sonata, not least by the way they alter his indications: the last chord of the first movement is marked ppp, on the brink of silence. But not here. Also the last chord of the whole work is rhythmically adrift.

Finally, it would seem wise for any violinist wanting to play Heifetz’s arrangements of two of Poulenc’s Mouvements perpétuels and his Presto in B flat to bear in mind that Heifetz’s own recordings of these are on YouTube. The composer’s marking on the latter is (in French) Presto possible and, needless to say, the miraculous Heifetz breasts the tape lengths ahead.

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Roger Nichols