GODARD: Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 131; Concerto Romantique for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 35; Scenes Poetiques for Orchestra, Op. 46 – Chloe Hanslip, violin/Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirk Trevor – Naxos 8.570554, 66:03 ****:
Chloe Hanslip (b. 1987) has already made a reputation as a violin wunderkind, a protege of Yehudi Menuhin and sponsored by many other musicians, including Justus Frantz. The music of Paris-born Benjamin Godard (1849-1896) might make an unlikely vehicle for an aspiring virtuoso, but this disc (rec. 1-5 June 2007) provides enough firepower to rate as tantamount to what Ruggiero Ricci did with the music of Sarasate and rare Paganini a generation ago. Godard has remained a singular success forever: the Berceuse from his 1888 opera Jocelyn became the darling of such diverse artists as John McCormack and Pablo Casals. Godard himself studied with Henri Vieuxtemps, and he based his own concertos on the romantic forms of the older master. While the Second Concerto is a late work, the Concerto Romantique is an early work and features a four-movement structure, whose Canzonetta charmed artists as different in temperament as Alfredo Campoli and Jascha Heifetz.
The Op. 131 throws big, rhetorical gestures at us, with throbbing bass lines and exalted runs, half-steps, and triplets, a fervent ethos that wends its way to a bravura cadenza calling for double, triple, and quadruple stops. Musical sophisticates trying to guess who wrote this piece will venture Lalo or Bruch. More virtuoso bass-line triplets in the Adagio quasi andante while the French horn and violin float their way from a Tristanesque–maybe Chopinesque–opening tune to the 6/8 middle section of some tympani-driven, emotional power before it returns to the 4/4 pearly gates. The last movement, a 2/4 reel with all sorts of woodwind and brass flutters and runs, sasses its way into a rondo of witty colors, catchy in the manner of Littolf’s famous Scherzo. The Concerto Romantique begins in a martial mode, a sixteen-measure orchestral introduction having set the tone. A sweetly lyric Adagio non troppo, again with a tympanic, thundering bass, undergirds the flowing melody that leads–after an accompanied recitative–directly to the famed, trippingly coy Canzonetta section. Hanslip plays each melodic statement as if she were playing Massenet’s Meditation from Thais or a gossamer moment from Saint-Saens. More militant derring-do from Godard and Hanslip for the finale, quite passionate, as marked, and bristling with double-stops and “perpetual,” breathless filigree calculated to raise our musical eyebrows in awe and admiration.
The seventeen-minute suite of four Poetic Scenes, Op. 46 are topological post-cards from the woods, the countryside, the mountains, and the village, respectively. Conservative in the manner of Massenet, they testify to a homogeneity of thought in musical idea and in orchestration, easy on the intake. The first three bucolic pieces yield to a more busy hamlet in the last section, a breezy boulevardier’s song that touches the light French music hall and hints at mood pieces by Eric Coates and Percy Grainger.