Monday, May 1, 2017

Frédéric Alfred d'Erlanger; Frederic Cliffe - Violin Concertos (Philippe Graffin)


Composer: Frédéric Alfred d'Erlanger; Frederic Cliffe
  1. d'Erlanger - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 17: I. Allegro moderato e maestoso
  2. d'Erlanger - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 17: II. Andante
  3. d'Erlanger - Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 17: III. Allegro molto
  4. d'Erlanger - Poëme in D major
  5. Cliffe - Violin Concerto in D minor: I. Allegro moderato
  6. Cliffe - Violin Concerto in D minor: II. Andante (poco lento)
  7. Cliffe - Violin Concerto in D minor: III. Lento (recitativo)

Philippe Graffin, violin
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
David Lloyd-Jones, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Hyperion



The 10th volume of Hyperion’s series devoted to The Romantic Violin Concerto wanders further afield—or so it seems—than did at least most of the earlier volumes into the downright obscure—though by no means the uninteresting—in its exploration of concertos by Baron Frédéric Alfred d’Erlanger and Frederic Cliffe. D’Erlanger’s concerto, according to the booklet notes, received its premiere in 1903 by Hugo Heermann in Frankfurt; Fritz Kreisler and Albert Sammons played it in England, and it must have served as a most appropriate vehicle for them. The first movement’s soaring romanticism, to which Philippe Graffin and David Lloyd-Jones seem keenly attuned, includes a variety of purely violinistic figuration, some of it athletically virtuosic, and a manner of deploying it that makes the solo part sound idiomatic; the work’s harmonic manner includes sudden modulations that should hold a more general listener’s interest. The movement ends with a majestic statement in Lloyd-Jones’s stirring account. The colorful orchestration of the opening movement endures in the woodwind timbres of the transparently scored second. In that movement, the violin takes its turn accompanying the orchestra with a rainbow of spectral arpeggios and bands of slinky figuration. The buoyant and sprightly dance-like finale may strike some listeners as insufficiently weighty—or, alternatively, pixilated (in the pre-digital sense), yet not so elfin as Felix Mendelssohn’s famous finale—to bring a work of the concerto’s gravitas to a satisfying conclusion, but Graffin and the orchestra weave in it their own kind of spell. 

The composer orchestrated his Poème in 1928, although it appeared 10 years earlier. According to the notes, its champions included William Primrose (as violinist) and Adila Fachiri (Jelly d’Arányi’s sister), who played it with the composer in the original violin-and-piano version. In pure sumptuousness, it’s perhaps equal to Ernest Chausson’s similarly designated work, though it sounds more direct, less sinuous, and more focused harmonically. 

Cliffe’s concerto, from 1896, opens, as does d’Erlanger’s, with bold double-stopped statements by the soloist. Both concertos speak in a harmonic dialect rich in surprises and subtle twists, and they confidently combine songlike melodies with violinistic display foreshadowed in their opening measures. Once again, Graffin plays as though born to the manner, and in this concerto he often allows the melodies to languish, swallowed by later sonorous tuttis (Lloyd-Jones knows just when to make those blaring statements). The first movement includes near its end an extensive and well-developed cadenza, with some touches like accompanying tremolo that made the cadenzas Kreisler wrote for popular works so effective. If the slow movement of Cliffe’s concerto doesn’t show the almost pointillistic orchestration of d’Erlanger’s, its melodious themes and rapt interaction with orchestra make it equally moving. After a misty opening, the skies clear to reveal a vigorous, ruddy finale that’s nevertheless as rich as the preceding movements of harmonic finesses. 

The engineers haven’t placed Graffin very much in the fore, and his tone on the 1730 Domenico Busano violin on which he plays sounds sweetly insinuating rather than boldly commanding. For the most part, he has mastered the difficulties of the two concertos, as well as their expressive requirements (and he revels in the composer’s Poème ). For those who appreciate the kind of late-blooming romanticism represented by Edward Elgar’s concerto, these two concertos and d’Erlanger’s Poème should be almost obligatory—alternately affecting and stirring—listening. Very strongly recommended. 

-- Robert Maxham, FANFARE

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Frédéric Alfred d'Erlanger (29 May 1868 in Paris – 23 April 1943 in London) was an Anglo-French composer, banker and patron of the arts. His compositions include works of all kinds, notably some operas and ballets was produced. As a millionaire, d'Erlanger was described as a "genuine Renaissance man"; he was a noted patron of the arts in London and invested in developing countries, financing department store chains in South America and railways in South Africa.


Frederic Cliffe (2 May 1857 – 19 November 1931) was an English composer. From 1884 to 1931 he held the post of Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music. Among his pupils were John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin. Cliffe had a short career as a composer from 1889 to 1905, with two symphonies as his principal works. After that seventeen-year period of composing substantial works, he had no record of further major composition and his works received few subsequent performances during his lifetime.


Philippe Graffin (born 1964 in Romilly-sur-Seine, France) is a French violinist. Graffin was a student of the late Joseph Gingold and Philippe Hirschhorn and has established a particular reputation for his interpretations of his native repertoire as well for his interest in rare and contemporary works. He has made numerous landmark recordings for labels such as Hyperion, Avie, ASV and Onyx. Graffin plays a Domenico Busano violin, made in Venice, 1730. He is currently professor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and guest professor at the Brussels Conservatoire Royal.


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