Inscribed 2-3 August 2005, this performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto (1910) from Joseph Gingold protégé Philippe Graffin conveys a deliberate freshness, much of which can be attributed to the use of the edition by W.H. Reed, leader of the London Symphony whom composer Elgar consulted while the concerto’s dedicatee, Fritz Kreisler, was on tour. When Kreisler did confer with Elgar, the virtuoso made extensive changes to the score, mostly elisions of octaves and the simplification of some of the textures. The briskness of Handley’s tempo in the opening Allegro and the incisive, though poignant solo work from Graffin illuminate the drooping figure melody as pervasive in holding the text together.
The Andante flows, or meanders, in requisitely sweet fashion, Graffin’s violin projecting a fine, thin, nasal tone that provides a sonic foil to the lush orchestral tissue. At several moments, the finale of the Elgar reminds me of the rapid figures in the last movement of the Busoni Concerto. The girth of the last movement, its ungainly shape with a monster cadenza in which the drooping first movement theme reappears, likewise makes this piece a counterpart to Busoni’s own Piano Concerto. Added double stops in the edition lend extra excitement to this staple, which Yehudi Menuhin played with such affection. Graffin coincidentally, made his first recording under Menuhin’s baton.
If Kreisler provided the creative impetus for Elgar’s Violin Concerto, so too did Belgian virtuoso Eugene Ysaye inspire the form and content of Chausson’s 1893 Poeme, Op. 25. Dark chromaticism and Wagnerian harmony, along with the influence of Ysaye’s Op. 12 Poeme Elegiaque (1892), complete the alchemical mix. Once more, Graffin turns to the original manuscript version to restore Chausson’s intentions, somewhat over-rided by Ysaye’s variants, which have endured through four generations. Based on a tale by Turgenev, The Chant of Love Triumphant, the music carries a dreamy passion to Tristanesque fulfillment. As passively-aggressive as the Elgar is assertive in its Edwardian rhetoric, the Chausson makes an evocative pairing, showing off Graffin’s technique to aerial advantage. Lovely recorded sound courtesy of David A. Pigott.
[Purchase at ArkivMusic.com]
— Gary Lemco