Thursday, August 9, 2012

Godard: Violin Concerto No 2, Etc

"Praise for Chloë Hanslip's confident excursion into unfamiliar territory." --Gramophone

This is an absolutely delightful disc. French composer Benjamin Godard wrote tons of music before his early death (in his mid-40s) in 1895, and his Second Violin Concerto must surely rank high not just in opus number--131--but in musical quality as well. The booklet compares him to Saint-Saëns, and it's easy to understand why. The craftsmanship, winning melodic gift, sparkling orchestration, and somewhat conservative harmonic stance all point to the French master.

Godard's sound, whether you agree or not with the comparison, is refreshingly un-Germanic, and a world away from the soggy faux-Brahms or faux-Wagner style so prevelant in English and French orchestral music of the period. This concerto has a finale with such a catchy main tune that you won't believe it isn't much better known.

The Concerto Romantique, in four movements instead of the usual three, also has a hidden gem in the form of its third-movement Canzonetta, while the Scènes Poétiques is a brief orchestral work that recalls the Chabrier of the Suite Pastorale. Chloë Hanslip plays both concertos with fearless virtuosity and a touch of rough tone now and again (perhaps exaggerated by the close balance), but also with an overall sense of fun that's wholly winning. In that irresistible finale of the Second Concerto she positively sparkles. The Slovak State Philharmonic, under Kirk Trevor, offers fine accompaniments, and certainly has improved as an ensemble in the years since its first recordings for Naxos. If you like good Romantic violin music, you'll snap this up without delay. -- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday, April 2008

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