Christian Ferras – French violin masterpieces

0 of 5 stars

Sonata in G minor for violin and piano
Sonata No.2 in E minor for violin and piano
Sonata for unaccompanied violin

Christian Ferras (violin)
*L’Orchestre National de Belgique conducted by Georges Sebastian;
Pierre Barbizet (piano)
All selections recorded 1953

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: March 2002
CD No: DECCA 468 496-2

French-born Christian Ferras (1933-1982) died aged 49. Perhaps he is best remembered for recording Bach’s ’Double’ concerto with Yehudi Menuhin in the early ’sixties. Ferras is not dissimilar to Menuhin in both tone and emotional vulnerability, the latter suggested by occasional technical awkwardness and loving recreation – imploring communication that gets to the heart of the music.

Ferras’s unvarnished, slightly edgy high register melts into middle voices with seductive charm; his vibrant lyricism is compelling. There’s also a musical focus, one that sustains the elusive qualities of Faure’s sonata; Ferras really gets beneath its skin, keeping structure in balance with Faure’s personal expression, simmering rather than explicit. Pierre Barbizet, Ferras’s regular pianist, is superb in his support and elucidation of the complex piano part. Late Faure needs to be worked at; Ferras’s lucidity is a boon. Honegger’s rigorous sonata, which Ferras brings to life, is an acerbic, spirited and wonderfully sustained piece modelled on Bach; Ferras’s committed reading is a revelation.

The fluid contrasts of Debussy’s sonata are well conveyed with both musicians exploiting delicacy, muscle, poise and sensitivity; Ferras’s intense top notes and smoky lower ones add sensual magic. In the two orchestral works, Ferras again displays magnetism and integrity. Georges Sebastian’s suggests the potency to come with his atmospheric opening to Chausson’s Poeme, a volatile rendition that is often moving and soars to ardent release. Tzigane is rather studied; smouldering and fierce for sure, but over-worked.

This unexpected but enormously welcome issue documents the work of a gifted and individual 20-year-old, one on the cusp of a distinguished career – he would go on to record Berg’s concerto with Georges Pretre and the Beethoven, Brahms and Sibelius concertos with Karajan; the Brahms is especially fine. Ferras’s spontaneously combustible playing – one senses his soul is expressed through the violin – is ideally tempered by the poise of a considerable musician.

Honegger’s four movements have but one track; otherwise, the production is excellent – the recordings more than acceptable and a truthful purveyor of Ferras’s eloquence.

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