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Title - 'Fiddler's Blues - Ysa˙e, Ravel, Debussy, et al'
Artist - Philippe Graffin / Claire Désert

For those not in the know, Philippe Graffin (born 1964) is a French violinist and recording artist born in Romilly-sur-Seine, France.

The French Violinist Philippe Graffin was a student of the late Joseph Gingold and Philippe Hirschhorn and has established a particular reputation for his interpretations of his native repertoire as well for his interest in rare and contemporary works.

He rediscovered original settings of classics such as Chausson's Počme and Ravel's Tzigane and has also championed the forgotten violin concertos of G. Fauré and the concerto by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Claire Désert (born 1967) is a French classical pianist born in Angouleme, France.

Désert began learning the piano at the age of five and at fourteen, she joined the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP).

A student of French composer Jean Hubeau, she won the First prize for chamber music.

Philippe Graffin's virtuosity combined with his skills as a sleuth have led to the world-premiere recording of a Posthumous solo violin sonata by Eugene Ysa˙e; an astonishing discovery that extends the Belgian composer's canon of his essential six sonatas for the medium.

Philippe unearthed the nearly-completed manuscript in the library of the Brussels Conservatoire, and polished off the final movement in the most Ysa˙e-esque manner possible.

Philippe's penchant for intuitive programming is brought to bear on the just-released musical gem Fiddler's Blues, a recording that combines two Ysa˙e works - including another premiere, with a pair of folksy, Bohemian-flavored works by George Enescu; another virtuoso violinist/composer who emigrated from his native Romania and like Ysa˙e settled in Paris.

Indeed, Enescu was a classmate of Maurice Ravel whose Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Faure is an affectionate nod to their teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, whilst his azure-tinged Violin Sonata influences the album's title.

Ravel's slightly older contemporary Claude Debussy befriended Ysa˙e and whereas Ysa˙e soared writing works for solo violin, Debussy wrote none.

Suggesting how such a work may have sounded, Philippe contributes his own arrangement for solo violin of Debussy's enduring piece Claire de lune.

Eugčne Ysa˙e (1858 – 1931)
Sonate posthume pour violon seul, Op. 27bis (9.18) *
1. I. Allegro molto moderato ma con brio (3.39)
2. II. Canzona: Lento e mesto (3.30)
3. III. Finale: Giocoso (2.08)

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in G (17.09)
4. I. Allegretto (7.44)
5. II. Blues: Moderato (5.26)
6. III. Perpetuum mobile: Allegro (3.58)

Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
7. Claire de lune (5.04) *
(Transcribed for solo violin by David Matthews and Philippe Graffin; dedicated to Eugčne Ysa˙e)

Eugčne Ysa˙e (1858 – 1931)
8. Petite Fantasie romantique (4.59) *

George Enescu (1881 – 1955)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 25 (26.08) ‘Dans le caractčre populaire roumain’
9. I. Moderato malinconico (9.20)
10. II. Andantino sostenuto e misterioso (8.25)
11. III. Allegro con brio, ma non troppo mosso (8.23)

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)
12. Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré (2.43)

George Enescu (1881 – 1955)
13. Hora Unirii (1:52)

Total time: 68.15

* World Premiere recordings

Featuring the classical pianist Claire Désert at all quarters, Fiddler's Blues is an album that just has to be heard to be believed. Simply reviewing it here, explain it so to speak, is like asking someone to "taste" the cake you have just baked - whilst they are on a Skype chat!

As noted, Graffin has established an indisputable reputation for his interpretations of the French repertoire and here on this near 70 minute recording he, quite possibly (depends on your own personal take, of course) excels himself.

"The Sonate posthume was a very unexpected discovery," Graffin recounts. "It seems that none of Ysa˙e’s students knew about it. Interesting, considering that it was his students who actually premiered each of the Op.27 solo sonatas."

"What I found was not merely sketches but an actual first draft – very clear and well worked out. There are two questions that now puzzle me. Firstly, why did Ysaye abandon it, as he had almost completed its last movement?"

"Secondly, how could this work have lain forgotten for so long in a sketch book passed between violinists? I guess the first question could be an answer for the second."

"But, to speculate on the first question, it seems probable that the question of key was important for Ysa˙e, as some scribble on the corner of a page nearby in the sketch book seems to suggest a key comparison with Bach’s sonatas and partitas, and therefore could be our first clue."

"Bach ends his cycle with his Third Partita written in the ever-brilliant key of E major, and so does Ysa˙e in his published Sixth. I finished the piece in the most Ysa˙e-esque way I could, and I am proud to say that most of what you hear is still really by Ysa˙e."

"I do not know why this work has remained hidden for so long, but it is all the more amazing to discover it today, as if it were a message in a bottle sent across time."

As for this transcription of Debussy’s famous Clair de lune, well, it was initially created by composer David Matthews at Graffin’s very own request, but he found the transcription unplayable on the violin!

So, what does Graffin do? Well, he rewrote the entire thing himself. Indeed, Graffin states in the liner notes of this wonderful new CD that the finished piece now resembles a piece by, of course, you guessed it, Ysa˙e.

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