ARTEK RECORDINGS CD13: Elmar Oliveira, Robert Koenig Chausson and Lekeu
I have never encountered a more passionate, erotic, deeply involved and spontaneous account of this Chausson score. the work was completed in 1891, shortly after the composer had become immersed in the operas of Wagner, whose influence is the dominant factor in an interpretation that places the score as a stepping stone to Shoenberg's Verfarte Nächt. Even in the exhuberance of the final movement, where there is certainly no lack of vivacity, the sensuous aspects soon take command. The performace avoids the pitfalls of the title 'concerto', the score emerging as a work for chamber ensemble with important roles for violin and piano. The recording team faithfully captures the excellent balance achieved between the musicians.
Guillaume Lekeu and Ernest Chausson both wrote in the chromatic, yearning style of César Franck, and each produced one chamber work that hovers just at the edge of the repertory. Lekeu's Violin Sonata is sweeter and less fevered than Franck's, and, although its themes are not highly distinctive, it should appeal to anyone who likes Fauré. Elmar Oliveira, the most significant violinist to have recorded this work in decades, takes an appropriately ardent approach, but can cool off when necessary. Chausson's Concert is misleadingly translated as "concerto." The violin and piano do often emerge from the overall texture with technically challenging parts, but they aren't quite soloists. Neither, though, is this a seamless sextet. It's music of both grand gestures and intimate sighs, and, like the Lekeu, filled with perfume and longing. This recording does face a little competition from name performers, but Oliveira and friends match the best, reveling in the decadence without forsaking discipline.
When these 1995 takes turned up on Biddulph, I hailed them in Fanfare 22:5 as topping the Menuhins and rivaling the white-hot virtuosity of the Dumay/Collard reading in the Lekeu, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the classic 1931 Thibaud/Cortot go at the Chausson. Nothing since has afforded greater satisfaction in either piece. If you'll allow a bit of self-quotation: "...teamed with the Vista Nuova Ensemble, (Oliveira and Koenig) turn in one of the most fully realized performances of the Concert on disc--sensuous and scintillant by turns, impassioned and superbly paced, every bar, every line, every phrase rife with color and nuance, yet arching and coiling with narrative sureness." Sound has been captured at the ideal point--as it flares into balanced, detailed radiance in spacious ambience. If the music of the Franck circle is a significant part of your joy, you cannot afford to be without this and are best advised to grab it while you can.