Fauré, Saint-Saens, Lalo, Guiraud & Canteloube

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COMPOSERS: Faure; Guiraud & Canteloube; Lalo; Saint-Saens
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Rare French Works for Violin and Orchestra
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); Ulster Orchestra/Thierry Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67294

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Rarities indeed. Fauré abandoned his Violin Concerto unfinished: only the first movement, recorded here, survives in full score. Saint-Saëns’s Morceau de concert was intended as the first movement of his Third Violin Concerto, then laid aside. Lalo’s three Fantaisies norvégiennes were reworked, without violin solo, into his (slightly) better-known Rhapsodie. Guiraud (civilised and sympathetic teacher of Debussy and Dukas) is nowadays forgotten as a composer; Canteloube’s orchestral works have been virtually extinguished by the popularity of Chants d’Auvergne. Altogether a collection of pieces that need some ingenuity to programme, and generally don’t get it: the slot in the repertoire is occupied pretty exclusively by Chausson’s Poème and Ravel’s Tzigane. (The exception is Lalo’s brief Guitarre, designed to be an encore and heard here in an orchestration by Pierné: but when did you last encounter it in concert?) In fact, everything here is delightful: the disc is a treasure trove of Gallic urbanity and fine technique, ranging from Fauré’s noble early work to the virtuosic élan of Lalo and Saint-Saëns. Canteloube thought his piece might be too heavily scored, and perhaps it is, but it’s also sumptuous, and lovers of those Auvergnois songs ought to try it. 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.

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Calum MacDonald