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Delvincourt: Violin and Piano Works / Michael Schafer, Ilona Then-Bergh

Delvincourt / Schaefer / Then-bergh
Release Date: 04/30/2013 
Label:  Genuin Classics   Catalog #: 13271   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Michael SchäferIlona Then-Bergh
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DELVINCOURT Sonata for Violin and Piano 1,2. Boccacerie. 2 Danceries. 1,2 Contemplation 1,2 1 Ilona Then-Bergh (vn); 2 Michael Schäfer (pn) Genuin 13271 (66:08)

Every nation has a raft of relatively Read more underappreciated composers from one of the richest and most diversified periods in musical history—the turn from the 19th to 20th centuries and on through at least the first half of the last century and sometimes beyond—and France is no exception. Among those born just before or near 1900 are the peculiar and prolific neo-medievalist Georges Migot (b. 1890); the great bitonal, neoclassical symphonist Jean Rivier (b. 1896); the colorful and energetic but sadly short-lived Pierre Ferroud (b. 1900); the turbulently expressionistic Henri Barraud (also b. 1900); and the mesmerically lyrical Daniel Lesur (b. 1908). Born a few years earlier than any of these, Claude Delvincourt (1888–1954), who receives the designation “outstanding” from Slonimsky in the Baker’s Dictionary of Musical Biography , must certainly be included in this distinguished company.

This brilliantly performed program by violinist Ilona Then-Bergh and pianist Michael Schafer, an adventurous German duo who have already explored repertoirial byways such as sonatas by the Russian Jews Grigorij Krein and Samuel Feinberg and the proto-Impressionist Silvio Lazzari for this label, highlights Delvinourt’s formally unconventional, harmonically complex, and emotionally unstable chamber music. This four-movement and nearly half-hour Violin Sonata of 1923 is surely one of the most impressive and masterful of its kind in the French repertoire, on the same exalted level as the Debussy and Ravel. The descriptive adjectives quoted in the booklet (whether taken from the score itself or imagined by the German annotator is not quite clear) give a graphic indication of the music’s close-to-symphonic scale and range of expressive feeling and sophistication: “severe, gentle, anarchic, exotic, torn, complicated, wild, exhausted,” followed by the French phrase “la confession d’un enfant du siècle”—all of this quite a testimony to the power and persuasiveness of the writing. Incidentally, there was once a prehistoric LP of this Sonata on the legendary Club Français du Disque label (together with an exciting String Quartet), but for all practical purposes this can be considered the premiere modern recording of the work.

After this thrilling Sonata, pianist Schafer gives us the 1926 Boccacerie, a hair-raisingly virtuosic set of five rather brief pieces inspired by characters from the iconic Renaissance proto-novel. In addition to a generically Hispanic ambience (also noticeable in the Sonata), these potent and incisive portraits display all the traits listed in the booklet, saving this reviewer any additional adjectival effort: “cheeky, carefree, droll, ruthless, joyful, coarse, cocky.”

Next, violinist Then-Bergh returns to join Schafer in the five-movement Danceries of 1935, whose five movement headings (Ronde, Bourrée, Basquaise, Louisiane, Farandole) indicate that by the 1930s Delvincourt had undergone a bit of jazz influence similar to what is sometimes heard in the music of Poulenc and Françaix, but with a much more prominent admixture of kaleidoscopic acidity. The program ends with a lovely Lied-like four-minute Contemplation, which puts a somewhat sad and subdued end to what is mostly a vivid and knotty romp of a recital.

Although this disc showcases Delvincourt’s demanding chamber music, he was also a master of the large-scale orchestra palette. This listener has heard a gigantic oratorio— Lucifer —as well as a sumptuous ballet, Bal Vénitien. Once on shellac there was a very engaging Radio-Serenade. But awaiting their disc debuts are such mouth-watering titles as Offrande à Siva, Pamir, Ce monde de rosée, etc.

If the Gallic muse is to your taste, you cannot afford to pass up this musical feast. Parenthetically, let me mention a somewhat related pairing of two rhapsodically beautiful 1920s violin sonatas by Louis Gruenberg and Wilhelm Grosz on the Telos label. It’s a knockout, as is this Delvincourt release.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Danceries, for violin & piano by Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Michael Schäfer (Piano), Ilona Then-Bergh (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  University of Music & Performing Arts Mu 
Length: 7 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Contemplation, for violin & piano by Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Michael Schäfer (Piano), Ilona Then-Bergh (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  University of Music & Performing Arts Mu 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Sonata for violin & piano by Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Ilona Then-Bergh (Violin), Michael Schäfer (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1923 
Venue:  University of Music & Performing Arts Mu 
Length: 28 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Boccacerie, cinq portraits pour le Décaméron, for piano by Claude Delvincourt
Performer:  Michael Schäfer (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1926 
Venue:  University of Music & Performing Arts Mu 
Length: 18 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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