S0127. CHRISTIAN FERRAS, w.Böhm Cond. Berlin Phil.: Concerto in D, Live Performance, 1951; WILHELM BACKHAUS, w.Böhm Cond. Berlin Rundfunks Orch.: Concerto #4 in G, Unpublished Recording, 9 Oct., 1950; (both Beethoven). (France) Tahra TAH 448. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 3504129044817
“Christian Ferras was a French violinist who, at the age of 10, won the first prize of the Nice Conservatory and won the first prize of the Paris Conservatory in 1946, where he studied with Rene Benedetti and Joseph Calvet. He started an international career with leading orchestras and conductors, notably recording the romantic concertos of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and others with Herbert von Karajan. Since the recent retirement of Zino Francescatti, he was considered France's leading concert violinist.
Mr. Ferras, who made his New York debut in 1959 when he was 25, won consistently high praise for his musicianship. Howard Taubman, music critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote that Mr. Ferras was '’uncommonly gifted’ and that his playing had ‘fire and brilliance’. Over the years, the violinist appeared on the concert stage as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Minneapolis Symphony and other leading orchestras. His grasp of the violin repertory, and in particular the works of Bach, Brahms and Mendelssohn, was enhanced by what Mr. Taubman called ‘a texture and muscularity that reflects the Gallic style’ of playing the instrument.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 16 Sept., 1982
“The Violin Concerto brings to the fore the French violinist who was so popular in Germany, Christian Ferras. His slim tone hadn’t yet fully taken on its more abrasive qualities though that rather fast vibrato is in place. He makes a predictably big slow down for the second subject and sounds meticulously phrased as he does so and bordering on mannerism. There’s some strong and heavy profiling from Böhm as there is in the second movement. The Berlin basses are deep brown but occasionally a little immobile. Ferras meanwhile is reverential in his playing though, lacking the range of tone colours of more opulent players, relies instead on the prayerful intimacies of his tight vibrato, sure technique and elegant phrasing. There is a rather extreme orchestral diminuendo from the conductor before Ferras takes a mini cadenza before the finale. I liked the strength and power of the orchestral crescendo here, the intensity of the soloist’s rhythmic emphases. Ferras audibly tires in the cadenza where some roughness in bowing begins to afflict his playing but trips away cleanly to a bright conclusion….the sound is splendid.
Böhm had recorded both these works in 1939 with the Dresden Staatskapelle. The soloist in the Piano Concerto was the same, Backhaus, whereas the violinist was Max Strub. I last saw those performances coupled on LP, though doubtless they’ve made subsequent reappearances … and rightly so. Over a decade later Backhaus and Böhm were taped in the Concerto in a broadcast recorded by RIAS, Berlin. The conductor moulds the strings with powerful care but there’s also a slight feeling of rhythmic insistence. Backhaus is fluent, not at all unstable, if sometimes guilty of some over-languid phrasing in the first movement. His cadenza here is also more than slightly hectic in places. The slow movement’s solemnity is not of the famous Orpheus and the Beasts variety. There’s less a sense of confrontation and more a feeling of interiority here, in which the soloist and orchestra become subsumed into a single line. It conveys a spirit of indivisibility, of an active monologue and not of a fractious orchestra battening on the reflective-philosophical piano. These things are of course difficult to convey but both soloist and conductor maintain the linearity of the argument, its mutual reliance to the end and I found it a thought provoking view. The Finale begins rather daintily but soon adopts very slightly stolid tempi and Backhaus again indulges a rather raucous cadenza.”
- Jonathan Woolf, musicweb-international
“…on the Tahra disc [above], a previously unreleased performance by Wilhelm Backhaus…reminds us again how totally the veteran pianist immersed himself, and to what great effect, in that sublime music.”
- Laurence Vittes, CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Autumn, 2003