Saturday 23 April 2016

Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka bring exceptionally fine, idiomatic and subtle performances of works for violin and piano by Guillaume Lekeu, César Franck and Lili Boulanger on a release from metis islands music

Violinist Frédéric Bednarz  and pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka has already recorded Shostakovich & Szymanowski violin sonatas for metis islands music now they bring us sonatas by Guillaume Lekeu and César Franck coupled with Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne for violin and piano.

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Frédéric Bednarz was born in Montreal, Quebec and studied with Oleh Krysa at the Eastman School of Music, Sergiu Schwartz at the Harid Conservatory and Victor Tretiakov in France. He was a soloist with chamber orchestras of Ottawa and Montreal, Sinfonia of Montreal, Ensemble America of New York, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Longy Chamber Orchestra. As a chamber musician he has performed with Anthony Marwood, Richard Lester, Julius Baker, Malcom Lowe, Alexandre Tharaud and has premiered many new works by composers such as R. Murray Schafer, Ana Sokolovic and Claude Marc Bourget.

Japanese-American pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka studied at Boston University, Manhattan School of Music and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She is active as both a chamber musician and accompanist and has played in solo and chamber music recitals in Boston, San Francisco, England, Japan and Canada. She has performed in the Musashino Hall in Tokyo, the French Cultural Center of Boston, Longy School of Music, Brown University, Montreal Conservatory, Canadian Music Center in Montreal, University of Alberta and the Kitchner-Waterloo Chamber Music Society.

Belgium composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) studied with Cesar Franck and Vincent d’Indy. He was a prolific composer but it is his Sonata for violin and piano in G major that is one of his finest works. Commissioned by the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe it was premiered in 1893 just before the composer’s premature death from typhoid fever the following year.

Frédéric Bednarz brings a beautifully refined tone to the opening of the Très modéré - Vif et passionné of Lekeu’s Sonata with some wonderfully limpid phrases from Natsuki Hiratsuka before developing through more incisive moments where this violinist finds a passionate edge. They hold a fine balance between the gentler flow and more passionate, dramatic moments, often with an underswell of tension. The music builds in drama and power with some very fine textures from Bednarz, before trying to find the gentler nature of the opening but rising again in passion with some wonderful textures as the music reaches the quieter, more thoughtful coda.

Hiratsuka brings a slow introduction to the second movement, Très lent soon joined by Bednarz to reveal a fine melody. There is a constant flow of lovely invention with a lovely nostalgia as the violin weaves its continuous flow, these two players finding many subtle details of tempo and dynamics. There are some moments where this pianist brings some wonderfully limpid phrases with a lovely French flavour. These two artists bring a lovely restraint to this intensely lyrical movement as it slowly works its way forward, weaving a lovely spell, to a quite lovely coda.
Bednarz and Hiratsuka launch into the Très animé with energy but soon find a fast flowing forward momentum, crafting a beautifully shaped performance of this movement. There are passages of gentle calm with some lovely violin phrases and spacious piano chords in this constantly shifting emotional journey. They rise through some fast passages where the violin brings some particularly fine playing with some terrific violin sonorities. There is a wonderfully florid piano passage before rapid descending phrases bring the coda.

This exceptionally fine performance shows just what a fine work Lekeu’s sonata is.

Natsuki Hiratsuka finds the perfect opening to the Allegretto ben moderato of César Franck’s (1822-1890) Sonata for violin and piano in A major with Frédéric Bednarz joining to gently take this music forward. These two certainly are a fine duo, showing an instinctive understanding as they slowly build the music, finding many of the subtleties. Bednarz varies his tone to find the many textural and emotional subtleties in this music.

There are some wonderful piano phrases soon overlaid by the violin as the Allegro pushes forward, full of spontaneous and intense passion yet soon finding an exquisite quieter repose. They beautifully shape the music before rising in the opening tempo to bring a sense of unsettled passion. This violinist finds some lovely timbres as the music develops through passages of finely controlled emotions to a nicely judged coda.

The Recitativo –Fantasia: Moderato – Molto lento has a finely laid out opening from Hiratsuka after which Bednarz brings a short solo passage to which the piano replies, these two artists finding a lovely gentle dialogue. Bednarz always finds lovely textures and sonorities as well as many subtle details. There are finely judged changes in tempo and dynamics bringing out the varying emotional content.
A lightness of mood is captured by these two artists in the lightly flowing Allegretto poco mosso adding a fine degree of intensity as the music develops through to a buoyant coda.

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) sadly had a life equally as short as Lekeu. It is her Nocturne for violin and piano that concludes this disc, finely wrought, building through moments of increased intensity to find a lovely calm at the end. A lovely piece, finely played. 

These exceptionally fine, idiomatic and subtle performances make this a most welcome release. The recording is excellent and there are brief notes on the music. 

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