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CD Review

Historic Ferras

Violin Concertos

Christian Ferras, violin
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet
Claves Records 2516 Live recordings 1957 & 1966 Monaural
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Who remembers Christian Ferras? He made several recordings for EMI and Deutsche Grammophon over the span of about two decades, essentially retiring in the 1970s to teach. In 1982, he committed suicide, and is almost never mentioned among the great violinists. That puzzles me, if only because tragic deaths in classical music are generally greeted with retrospectives, tributes, and endless reissues. That hasn't happened with Ferras, and perhaps we should be grateful. In any event, this 2004 Claves issue gives us an important live document of this immensely talented violinist.

Although the overall sound of the orchestra under Ernest Ansermet is typically second-rate in both cases, in neither work does this strike me as a real problem. The Berg is almost numbingly intense, with tension and genuine sense of loss. The live recording captures Ferras well, but the orchestra is a touch distant. The overall effect is not entirely natural, but also somewhat haunting. The playing is deeply involving and full of personality.

In the Stravinsky, this is a raw interpretation that stands in stark contrast to Hillary Hahn on Sony. Deeply anguished, the music takes on a rich emotional character despite some issues with intonation. As before, the orchestra is nothing special, though here at least we have a composer with which Ansermet had a genuine affinity. His forces aren't ideally recorded; if they were distant in the Berg, they are a bit coarse and tubby here. Still, despite a somewhat labored Finale, the performance convinces because of how engaged the players are. This is a valued addition to a limited discography.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman