Les Saisons Françaises

Music for violin and piano by Boulanger, Debussy, Poulenc & Ravel

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Related Artists: Anna Ovsyanikova, Julia Sinani

Catalogue Number: 5060192780963


The first thing to say about this debut recording from the young London-based Russian duo of Anna Ovsyanikova and Julia Sinani is that it’s refreshing to see Debussy’s omnipresent Violin Sonata in some less omnipresent company for once. Yes, to be sure, it’s an all-French programme, as is so often the case for this piece. However, their Ravel isn’t the ‘official’ Violin Sonata of 1927 but instead the single-movement Sonata No 1 he penned in 1890 but then abandoned, and which was posthumously published in 1975. Then there’s Debussy admirer Lili Boulanger’s two pieces for violin and piano, the 1911 Nocturne (originally for flute and echoing the Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune with its opening descending line) and the Cortège of 1914, which while hardly profound or groundbreaking are still enjoyable as sweetly perfumed Gallic bijoux. Rounding off the programme is Poulenc’s Violin Sonata of 1943, and if you’re listening digitally then this comes both in its 1943 form and also with Poulenc’s 1949 reworking of the final movement, prompted by the death of its dedicatee, Ginette Neveu, in a plane crash. So full marks for a programme that manages on paper to be both distinctive and instinctive, and these two words could equally be applied to how it sounds. The Debussy itself is notable for sitting at the slower end of the tempo spectrum, whether over the Allegro vivo’s time-suspended meno mosso and tempo rubato markings or in its marked pulling on of the brakes for the concluding movement’s Peu à peu, très animé section (4’42”) preceding the final flourish. Serious and steady rather than fluidly capricious, with Ovsyanikova’s attractively full and velvety tones complemented by correspondingly cloaked tones from Sinani, it’s all a sound world that I’d have placed as Russian school even had I not known who was playing. So while I’ve heard a wider range of colours and dynamics in these pieces from others – give me Janine Jansen’s more delicate and nuanced Boulanger Nocturne any day – it certainly has its own charm, and I love the fruity sharpness and overall ker-pow with which Ovsyanikova opens the Poulenc. The album was recorded in both the Lutheran Church of St Catherine in St Petersburg and St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, and while we’re not given the details I’d hazard a guess that the Poulenc was recorded in a different venue to the rest, its violin sounding just a tad closer to the ear. (Gramophone)

Track listing
  1. Sonata for violin and piano – I – Allegro vivo (Debussy)
  2. Sonata for violin and piano – II – Intermède: Fantasque et léger (Debussy)
  3. Sonata for violin and piano – III – Très animé (Debussy)
  4. Deux morceaux – I – Nocturne (Boulanger)
  5. Deux morceaux – II – Cortège (Boulanger)
  6. Sonata Posthume for violin and piano (Ravel)
  7. Sonata for violin and piano – I – Allegro con fuoco (Poulenc)
  8. Sonata for violin and piano – II – Intermezzo (Poulenc)
  9. Sonata for violin and piano – III – Presto tragico (Poulenc)
  10. Sonata for violin and piano – III – Presto tragico [original version] (Poulenc)