‘Martin Chalifour in Walt Disney Concert Hall – Trésors Ensevelis (Hidden Treasures)’ = Works of POULENC; DEBUSSY; RAVEL; STRAVINSKY; BACH – Martin Chalifour, v./Joanne Pearce Martin, piano/ Bryan Pezzone, p./Maia Jasper, violin – Yarlung

by | Dec 9, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

‘Martin Chalifour in Walt Disney Concert Hall – Trésors Ensevelis (Hidden Treasures)’ = POULENC: Sonata for Flute and Piano (arr. Chalifour); SCHÖNBERG : Duets for two violins; DEBUSSY: La Plus que Lente (arr. Leon Roques); RAVEL: Sonata for Violin and Piano; STRAVINSKY: Three Ballet Excerpts (arr. Stravinksy & Dushkin); J.S.BACH: Partita No. 1 in B minor (arr. Schumann)– Martin Chalifour, violin/Joanne Pearce Martin, piano/Bryan Pezzone, piano/Maia Jasper, violin – Yarlung Records (gold CD) 94004, 63:16 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The series starting to develop with Martin Chalifour, concert master of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; on Yarlung Records, is already a joy to hear and filled with – as titled – hidden treasures. I had previously reviewed Chalifour’s recording of some terrific modern masterworks by Stucky, Salonen and Lutoslawski (oh, and Mozart) and admired the playing and sound quality a great deal. This disc, while quite different, left me the same positive impressions.
First, Chalifour’s own comments in the booklet notes state that he has always had an affinity for “lesser-known” music and hopes that this album serves as a bit of rediscovery of these little gems. I have a similar love of great music that is not widely performed. I found this disc quite satisfying on many different levels. First, Martin Chalifour is a wonderful player with a supple technique, a beautiful tone and great sensitivity to the requisite style in each piece. Any lover of excellent violin artistry would greatly enjoy this disc for that reason and – speaking of tone – to hear the wonderful collection of great instruments in Mr. Chalifour’s eclectic array. Specifically, he plays a Milstein Stradivarius in the Poulenc, the Ravel and the Bach. A Michael Fischer is used in the Schönberg, the “Jack Benny” Strad in the Debussy and a Guarneri in the Stravinsky. I am certainly no violin expert but I know a wonderful, warm sound when I hear it and these instruments are clearly exceptional.
Second, the music really is terrific. Each of these short works is a beautiful find. I have heard the Poulenc Sonata for Flute in its original guise a few times and Chalifour’s transcription for violin works very well. I like Poulenc a great deal regardless (as I do Ravel and Debussy and almost the French composers of the early twentieth century). The Schönberg is a pleasant oddity, actually. Taken from the composer’s String Quartet in D from 1897, it bears no resemblance to the Schönberg we know of his Chamber Symphony, for example, and owes more to Schubert or Johann Strauss. Chalifour and partner, Maia Jasper, bring out the unexpected charm in the three short movements quite well!  The Debussy waltz La Plus que Lente (the ‘Even Slower’ waltz) is arranged by fellow violinist Leon Roques quite tastily and given the nature of the work, I can sort of visualize Jack Benny playing this – who was actually a very fine player in his own right.
The Ravel Sonata is a highlight for me.  This was written as a Sonata for Violin in 1927 and shows Ravel’s fondness for American culture with its blues inflected middle movement amidst some very French sounding melodies. Stravinsky’s own arrangement of music from his own ballets (Petrouchka and The Firebird) was assisted by the composer’s accompanist Samuel Dushkin. This arrangement works quite well too, especially the outer movements, the Russian Dance from Petrouchka and the Scherzo from The Firebird. Bryan Pezzone’s work here is impeccable as well. This wonderful collection closes with the Schumann arrangement of the glorious First Partita by Bach. Schumann cleverly including the double time variations of the original eight movements suite within each principal form of the Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande and Tempo di Borea.

The playing on each of these works is splendid. Martin Chalifour is a wonderful musician, very capably joined by pianist Joanne Pearce Martin and by Bryan Pezzone (on the Stravinsky). The last – but not least – reason to get this disc (and the others!) is audio quality. Yarlung Records, out of Los Angeles, is a high end recording company specializing in audiophile quality recordings. These discs are pressed using the “Yarlung Special Alloy” with a gold coating and virgin polycarbonate, pressed in Germany. The sound is totally clear and with a rich, ‘live’ sound. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is also, arguably, the sonically and aesthetically finest orchestra hall in the country. It is true “eye (and ear) candy” and Martin Chalifour’s playing is always wonderful, whether as part of the huge, but delicate LAP sound or showcased, as it is here, in some beautiful solo work.
—Daniel Coombs