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The charismatic and innovative violinist Philippe Graffin, described as “today’s quintessential French violinist” and by the london Times as a brilliant musical “conversationalist”, is at the creative heart of this CD of Russian repertoire, “Concertos Parlando”, or “concertos with a story”.
Tchaikovsky’s famous concerto is heard here with a different cadenza for the first time; a mesmerising cadenza by the great Eugene Ysaÿe which every violinist will surely want to hear. Prokofiev’s own orchestration of the second of his Five Melodies, a wordless song cycle, is recorded for the first time alongside Rodion Shchedrin’s orchestration of the remaining four, a project initiated by Graffin. The violinist’s artistic collaboration with the multi award-winning Russian composer Shchedrin began when he asked Rodion if he would write a concerto in a similar vein to Shostakovich’s first Piano Concerto with trumpet and strings, but for the violin. The resulting Concerto Parlando, a conversation between a free and gypsy-like violin and an authoritative, cynical trumpet, was commissioned by Philippe Graffin and the Association A Tempo and is recorded live from its world première in London with the BBC Symphony.
Perhaps the true story of this CD is how Philippe Graffin’s inquisitive mind and research successes are constantly finding new gems and broadening the repertoire for the instrument.
For all of my backbiting about the inclusion of the Tchaikovsky credit goes to Cobra and Graffin for letting us hear his Tchaikovsky rather than giving us a 43-minute disc. This Tchaikovsky recording has the distinction of being heard here for the first time with Ysaÿe’s cadenza. This, very sensibly, enjoys its own track. While Graffin is not going to supplant my entrenched favourites (Oistrakh and Kogan) this is considered and by no means run-of-the-mill. It delivers rewards aplenty across an amply filled disc. Graffin lovers of today and tomorrow will be amongst those revelling in this disc.
Gramophone, Sep 2014
It’s always rewarding to encounter a musician of the calibre and risktaking flair
of Philippe Graffin. Rest assured, there are no half measures nor any whiff of stale routine here: his is playing of maximum conviction, strong personality and sparky temperament, in which nothing is taken for granted. In short, he always makes you listen, and he certainly extracts every ounce of eloquence and intensity from Rodion Shchedrin’s Concerto Parlando for violin, trumpet and strings.
The Strad, May 2014
Twelve years ago the French violinist Philippe Graffin asked Rodion Shchedrin if
he would compose a work for him in the vein of Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto, retaining the trumpet but replacing the piano with the violin. The result is the threemovement Concerto Parlando, here receiving its world premiere recording. It is highly dramatic in the outer movements, where a bright trumpet contrasts with the lyric violin. They surround an extended slow movement clothed in dark colours. The amount of inner detail from the orchestra speaks of much detailed preparation.
With such a profusion of highly regarded recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto already in the catalogue, Graffin at least makes his stand out by using Ysaÿe’s capricious first movement cadenza. He is very free in his approach to rhythms and tempos throughout the work, with passages of technical brilliance sitting next to moments of uncommon poetic beauty…Balys Dvarionas’s Pezzo elegiaco makes a pleasing curtain raiser to a well recorded disc.