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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Delightful, exciting and often touching concertos presented with total conviction and every appearance of unfaltering technique.
Philippe Graffin (vn); David Lloyd-Jones, cond; BBC Natl O of Wales
HYPERION 67838 (69:45)
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
to a satisfying conclusion, but Graffin and the orchestra weave in it their own kind of spell.
The composer orchestrated his
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
). For those who appreciate the kind of late-blooming romanticism represented by Edward Elgar’s concerto, these two concertos and d’Erlanger’s
should be almost obligatory—alternately affecting and stirring—listening. Very strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Hyperion do not shill-shally around. They could so easily have blanched at the perceived risks of issuing a CD of two completely unknown half hour British violin concertos. The alterative was to have harnessed one with a better known or even famous concerto in the time-honoured fashion. Their resolve has not failed them and so we have here three unknown works by two unknown composers – allowing for the Cliffe CD of the First Symphony on Sterling. The chosen soloist is Philippe Graffin who has already won his spurs with the first recording issued of the Coleridge Taylor concerto (Avie) not to mention fine projects with Hyperion: the three Saint-Saens concertos, the Breville and Canteloube collection and another disc including the Goldmark suite and the sumptuous Bruno Walter sonata.
The Paris-born D’Erlanger was a naturalised Brit with affluent banking connections who wrote among much else operas (one of these is on Hardy’s Tess) and a range of ambitious works including a Requiem Mass and a Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra – perhaps influenced by Litolff’s two examples under the same name. is Brahmsian in character. It’s first movement is from a composer clearly impressed by Brahms’ First Symphony, Violin Concerto and especially with the Tragic Overture. Although it has its delightfully sighing points of contact with the Dvorák concerto it is no stranger to romantic storms. Then again the Andante has a Balakirev-Oriental accent and a hint of birdsong. Mendelssohn and Bruch play carefree throughout the whirlwind finale. D’Erlanger’s Poëme is lushly romantic – tantamount to Korngold and not that far distant from the Delius Violin Concerto. It’s very enjoyable. Cliffe was born at Lowmoor near the city of Delius’s birth, Bradford. His Concerto with its first movement’s unstemmable flow of lyrical release reminded me of the Delius concerto. Its more Victorian accent makes a natural connection with the apollonian Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Andante is very touching indeed and makes a good match for the Andante of the D’Erlanger work. The finale begins in magisterial mystery – quietly tense – and from this emerges a dancing showpiece of an Allegro which recalls the great Spanish-inflected works of the age notably the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. Each of these pieces has a human face. They are far from being vehicles for mere display. A real emotional narrative energises the invention of these two composers.
Lewis Foreman’s essay about d’Erlanger and Cliffe is fascinating and whets the appetite for more works from each of these two intriguing yet forgotten figures. You can read an article about Cliffe on this site.
Two delightful, exciting and often touching concertos presented with total conviction and every appearance of unfaltering technique. If you are already an adherent of the violin concertos by Bruch, Tchaikovsky and the others mentioned above then don’t miss out on this. These two are every bit as good as the de Boeck, the Karlowicz, the Garofalo and the Ivanovs.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D minor by Frederic Cliffe
Philippe Graffin (Violin)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 17 by Frédéric d' Erlanger
Philippe Graffin (Violin)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
A Wonderful Surprise March 23, 2019
By Joseph F. (Stamford, CT) See All My Reviews
"I purchased this CD because I had heard a piece by Baron d'Erlanger played by a string quartet and piano on one of the BBC Lunchtime Concerts on BBC3. It was fantastic, and I was intrigued by it. I couldn't find the piece anywhere, but I did see this Hyperion CD. I bought it for the d'Erlanger, but I love it more for the Frederic Cliffe violin Concerto in D Minor. As can happen from time to time, the piece you thought you would love, you like all right; but another piece on the disc you fall in love with, and that's what happened. The Cliffe Concerto is great, I mean really great! I am not generally drawn to romantic music, but this grabbed me from first hearing. It is rich; sensitive and almost heartbreaking at times. Our love affair is quite new, so I listen to this CD almost every day. Don't get me wrong, the d'Erlanger is very good; and his shorter piece on the CD, the Poëm in D Major, is lovely. But the Cliffe has gone to the top of my charts. The soloist Philippe Graffin and the BBC Orchestra of Wales under David Llyod-Jones perform with utmost refinement, sensitivity, feeling and total engagement. Now....do I have to start with Volume 1 and buy all of these CDs?"
Great Recording July 12, 2016
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"I'd like to add a few comments to those of M. Shulman, with whom I am in complete agreement. Unfamiliar composers and previously unknown works; result- a revelation! Sound familiar? It should, if you are acquainted at all with Hyperion's remarkable series of works from the Romantic Era- piano, cello, and violin. This particular CD is Volume #10 in the Romantic Violin Concerto project, and what a suave, polished performance it offers. The composers are British (one of them a naturalized Frenchman). The music of Frederic d'Erlanger and Frederic Cliffe presented on this disk stretch the concept of the Romantic Era quite a bit, as their concertos date from around the turn of the 20th century. Does this matter? I don't think so, because their music appears fully in synch with the best of violin concertos written 50-60 years previously- strikingly melodic, lush orchestral accompaniment for the highly attractive solo violin parts. The two concertos and d'Erlanger's nice Poeme in D Major were all new works for me, and I am happy to state that my initial reaction was strongly positive. French violinist Philippe Graffin performs the program with empathy and commitment, backed up by David Lloyd-Jones leading the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. After you hear this excellent program, I think you will agree that both composers avoided the pyrotechnics of such composers as Tchaikovsky, but I also think you are likely to agree that their style (smooth, mellifluous, conjunctive, and almost 'laid back') produced music that is a total delight on the ear. A fine recording, which I recommend."
Rare treats September 28, 2013
By M. Shulman (Bangor, ME) See All My Reviews
"Where else can you find these so well done? Rare treats by lesser known composers."