Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Les Introuvables de Christian Ferras [Box Set]
Genres: World Music, Pop, Classical
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 02/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prior to purchasing this 5-disc import box set, "Les Introuvables de Christian Ferras," this violinist was sadly underrepresented in my CD collection. In fact, he only appeared on four titles -- a Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with von Karajan, the classic 1960 account of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins (BWV 1043) with Yehudi Menuhin, a Testament CD performing obscure Rodrigo, Semenoff and Elizalde Concertos, and a stunning mono account of the Brahms VC with Carl Schuricht on that conductor's recent set in the "Original Masters" series (see my reviews for the latter two). However, I had heard enough to know that Ferras was one of the great fiddlers of the century, and this EMI set just adds an exclamation point to that statement. Not only do you get to hear him perform breathtaking Sonatas by Faure, Franck and Enesco with pianist Pierre Barbizet, but you get a full three discs worth of golden age stereo concerto recordings with some of the finest conductors of the era. Walter Susskind conducts the Philharmonia on the 1958 accounts of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole and Bruch's VC No. 1, Andre Vandernoot leads the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire in 1960 performances of Mozart's 4th and 5th VCs, Malcolm Sargent and the Royal Philharmonic join for the 1959 Beethoven VC, and one of my personal favs, Constantin Silvestri appears with the Philharmonia on the 1957 Mendelssohn. And considering you get all of this music on 5 CDs for this low price, this set is truly a budget bargain. Simply put, the Ferras "Introuvables" box is invaluable."
A fine tribute to Christian Ferras, from his EMI period (195
Discophage | France | 07/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection serves as a useful reminder that Christian Ferras existed before his years with Karajan and DG (1964 to 1967) and his famous recordings of concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, and of Sonatas by Brahms, Schumann, Franck and Lekeu (with his longstanding partner Pierre Barbizet). Most of these can be found on two budget collections, ASIN:B00004UUGJ Grandes sonates romantiques (available in Europe only) and The Great Violin Concertos. In fact, Ferras had a recording career even prior to these EMI recordings, mostly with Decca. These Decca recordings are documented on Rodrigo: Concierto de estio; Semenoff; Double Concerto; Elizalde; Violin Concerto, Brahms: Violin Concerto; Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 and French Violin Masterpieces.
Ferras' tenure with EMI began in 1957 with Fauré's 1st Sonata and Franck's Sonata and lasted until 1964, with his remake of both Fauré Sonatas (all four recordings are included here), with the exception of an odd-return in 1968 for Chausson's Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet (not included, but once available on CD in an all-Chausson collection, now hard to find).
As often with the French-originated "Introuvables" collection, the compilation is frustrating, as EMI has left out as much as it has included: Chausson's Concert would have made a useful return, and it would have been nice to have Debussy's Sonata and Ravel's Tzigane back together with Enescu's 3rd Sonata, their original LP-mate back in 1962, rather than having to purchase the two EMI 2 CD-sets devoted respectively to Debussy's and Ravel's Chamber Music, as fine as they are (Debussy: Musique de Chambre [IMPORT] and Ravel: Musique de chambre). Brahms' Double Concerto from 1962 with Tortelier and the Philharmonia under Kletzki, and Tchaikovsky's Concerto with Silverstri (the latter was the LP-mate to Mendelssohn's Concerto, here included) aren't here, probably because they were already licensed to and re-released by Testament (Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; Brahms: Double Concerto). The absence of Berg's Chamber Concerto, the original discmate to the Violin Concerto here included, is to be sorely lamented (both have been reissued by French EMI on a CD now hard to find). Recorded in 1963, the Concerto is a superb reading, with Ferras passionate, virtuosic and precise, and Prêtre, unexpected in this repertory, showing admirable attention to the myriad details of articulation and dynamics in Berg's delicate and elaborate part-writing, but also a certain lack of power in the 2nd movement's great climax at 6:20.
In 1959 with Malcom Sargent and the RPO, Ferras gives a good, traditional version of Beethoven's Concerto, with admirable purity of violin tone, fine interplay with the orchestra and a finale which, I find, lacks bounce. In Franck, Ferras doesn't have a big, lush tone like Stern and Oistrakh, but it is luminous and precise, very "feminine". While his playing can be passionate, it also has an aristocratic simplicity of delivery and absence of excesses, and Barbizet contributes a crystal-clear piano accompaniment with sparse pedalling. But the sonics are distant, more than in Oistrakh's 1954 recording with Yampolski. The 1964 remake of Fauré's 1st comes in much better sound than the 1957 essay, and the two partners are more open to the underlying current of Schumanesque turbulence, although one feels that they are not ready to sacrifice clarity of articulation for the sake of drive and passion.
The rarity in the set is Gyula Bando's Concerto Hongrois from 1958. Stylistically, Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin comes to mind in the 1st movement, and his Hungarian Dances in the finale as well as the Violin Concertos of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. It is hardly original or memorable, then, although it makes a pleasant listening, and one wonders why Ferras tackled it and EMI recorded it (in 1963).
But to me the prize of the collection and the reason for buying it is Enescu's magnificent 3rd Sonata, one of the great Violin & Piano masterpieces from the first 50 years of the 20th century, and a catalog of original playing techniques and coloristic effects put at the service of a poetic invention of incredible evocative power. Other than the composer himself (whose 1943 recording with Dinu Lipatti was available in the early 1990s on a 2 CD-set from the Philips Legendary Classics series, and can still be found on Electrorecord), Ferras can claim a special legitimacy in this piece with Menuhin (who made the premiere recording in 1936, Menuhin Plays Enescu, Szymanowski, Prokofiev, Ravel, and re-recorded the piece 30 years later: West Meets East: The Historic Shankar/Menuhin Sessions), as both studied it with the composer. Ferras turns out the most rhapsodic and whimsical reading of all, the closest to Enescu's own (and fast) timings in the first two movements but even brisker and exuberant than Menuhin in the finale (where Enescu adopts a more moderate gait, more evocative of a Rumanian rustic dance), with swooning portamentos (all written by Enescu) which I find immensely fun, and phrasings that sometimes dispense from total respect of the printed score. Later versions (Ami Flammer, Sherban Lupu, Leonidas Kavakos and Miheala Martin - but I have exhausted my alloted 10 links) have delved deeper in terms of instrumental color (Enescu's myriad details of phrasing, articulation and playing modes open up lots of possibilities), and probed deeper the variety of expressions they conjure but among the "historical" versions (which go from Menuhin's first and Enescu's, to Isaac Stern's classic and superb 1967 recording, on vol. 27 of Sony's complete collection, ASIN B000002A8X), Ferras is quite unique for his unpredictability, very much in situation in this Gipsy-inspired commposition.
Ferras was a child prodigy. Born in 1933, he made his concert debut in 1946 at the age of 13, and from early on played with the most prestigious orchestras and conductors. But later, in the late 60s and early 70s, his career was severely thwarted by growing depression and alcoholism, and after 1969 he almost completely disappeared from the concert hall and the recording schedules. Despite an attempted and successful comeback in 1982, he committed suicide in September of the same year. He wasn't yet 50.
I am indebted to the wonderful website from the French Christian Ferras association for much of the discographic and biographical information contained in this review.