Review – Après un Rêve: Fauré, Debussy, Ravel (BIS)

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Après un Rêve: Fauré, Debussy, Ravel
Christian Svarfvar, violin; Roland Pöntinen, piano
BIS 2016. 2183. 61 min 8 s.

French music has long held an essential position in a violinist’s repertoire, but with this new release by Swede Christian Svarfvar, the links between French melody and the French operatic tradition of the 19th century are brought into clear focus. The tool used is, of course, the violin, with its latent potential to mimic the expressiveness of the human voice. The disc runs in roughly chronological order, or rather, the way we like to think of the French compositional lineage: Fauré bleeds into Debussy, who seeps into Ravel.

Rather than simply sonata, sonata, sonata, Svarfvar’s unconventional turn is his addition of small pieces, notably mélodie transcribed for violin and piano with Fauré’s Après un Rêve and Heifetz’s arrangement of Debussy’s Beau Soir. An interesting little tidbit thrown in for good measure is Fauré’s charming Morceau de lecture (1903), which he composed as a sight-reading test for the Paris Conservatoire. Interestingly enough, the piece wasn’t in sheet music circulation until the turn of the 20th century.

Within this late-Romantic chromatic landscape on the cusp of something else entirely, Svarfvar plays with a sweet, light tone unburdened by schmaltzy oversentimentality, but not devoid of emotion. Little treats such as Ravel’s Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré and Pièce en forme de Habanera help contextualize the larger multi-movement works in that they are fleeting bits of fancy, fantastic in their fruitless frivolity, tempting the listener to a world right outside her reach.

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About Author

Kiersten van Vliet was the Web Editor and an Editorial Assistant for La Scena Musicale from 2015–17.

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