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Cras: Works For Violin & Piano, Poemes Intimes / Nicolas, Ferey

Cras / Nicolas / Ferey
Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Skarbo   Catalog #: 4128   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Cras
Performer:  Marie-Annick NicolasJean-Pierre Ferey
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In case you missed this on its initial release in the 1990s, here it is again, “it” being first-rate performances of the violin/piano works, plus the solo-piano Poèmes Intimes of Jean Cras (1879-1932), a French composer not easy to find in the mainstream music sources. No matter: upon first listen, whether to the violin/piano or the solo-piano pieces, you register a clear if not defining aural and stylistic link back to elements of Debussy, Duparc, and Franck—the fluid melodies, occasional modal harmony, the through-composed form—and it’s a very ingratiating journey (sound clip). Cras’ opera, Polyphème, apparently was very well received at its 1922 premiere (read our review here), but most of his output was chamber music, and Read more on evidence of the works on this program, his respectful regard among his contemporaries was certainly deserved.

The violin and piano pieces, although not exactly virtuoso works, depend on a highly refined expressive technique and ability to effectively enliven the well-crafted dialogues, particularly in the Suite en Duo (interestingly originally written for flute and harp). Cras gives both instruments an equal role, and charges each with important melodic/thematic commentaries that join and diverge and join again. It’s wonderful music, easy to listen to, but always engaging, never boring. The two performers, violinist Marie-Annick Nicolas and pianist Jean-Pierre Ferey, embrace it without forcing anything, remaining within the the music’s overall intimate, lyrical character yet reveling in more subtle variations in color and occasional more fanciful dramatic flourishes.

The piano works, written between 1902 and 1911, come with programmatic titles—En Islande (In Iceland); Preludio con fughetta; Au fil de l’eau (With the stream); Recueillement (Meditation); La maison du matin (The morning house)—but the associations are not all clearly defined in the music (Au fil de l’eau being the exception). Again, it doesn’t really matter; the pieces stand on their own, full of character, with tightly written, agreeable, and skilfully developed thematic material that could be playing out some kind of story or depicting a scene, but we don’t need to know exactly what in order to enjoy the effect. Technically they are more challenging than the violin works (listen to the formidable demands of La maison du matin) and Ferey convinces us that they all should be heard more often as part of the recital (and recording) repertoire (Au fil de l’eau, for instance, would fit nicely alongside, or instead of a piece by Debussy or Ravel). The same goes for the violin/piano pieces, either together or as single entries. In all, this is a thoroughly satisfying program of first-rate music, a rare and truly welcome addition to the catalog.

-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Suite en duo for Flute and Harp by Jean Cras
Performer:  Marie-Annick Nicolas (Violin), Jean-Pierre Ferey (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; France 
Pieces (4) for Violin and Piano by Jean Cras
Performer:  Marie-Annick Nicolas (Violin), Jean-Pierre Ferey (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926-1929; France 
Počmes (5) intimes by Jean Cras
Performer:  Jean-Pierre Ferey (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1911; France 

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