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Proust, Le Concert Retrouvé

Théotime Langlois de Swarte (violin), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Proust, Le Concert Retrouvé
Fauré: Violin Sonata No. 1; plus works by Chopin, Couperin, Hahn, Liszt and Schumann
Théotime Langlois de Swarte (violin), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902508   60:12 mins

This disc is inspired by a concert Marcel Proust organised in 1907, built round the Fauré A major Violin Sonata which he adored and mentioned in his great novel. Authenticity is present in an Érard piano, date unspecified, and a Stradivarius violin, the ‘Davidoff’, which has been held in the Paris Conservatoire museum since 1887, when one of the first students to play it was the 12-year-old Fritz Kreisler. In the hands of the violinist here it ‘speaks’ with an aristocratic sweetness, aided by his exemplary technique and phrasing.

The pianist however is altogether what the French call ‘another pair of sleeves’. As long as the violinist is playing with him, all is well. Indeed they perform the scherzo of the Fauré Sonata, as do few others, up to the composer’s breakneck metronome marking, and very well too. But left to his own devices, the pianist becomes someone quite different, determined to leave his mark on the music. The opening bars of the transcription of a Reynaldo Hahn song warn us through delayed and/or extended downbeats of what may lie ahead. Worse still occurs in the first 23 bars of the said Sonata, for solo piano, where the sustaining pedal is barely lifted. The worst comes in Couperin’s Barricades mystérieuses, a rather bullish interpretation that destroys the composer’s carefully arranged chinaware. I would be grateful if, in future, he sought advice from a harpsichordist before approaching Baroque keyboard works. The liner notes are first class.

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Roger Nichols