MiM-007 (sortie 2018)

Chansons d’amour, de vie et de mort


Sortie : premier trimestre 2018.

Paroles de Claude Marc Bourget, sauf « Il voudrait tant », par Sarah Vajda et Claude Marc Bourget
Musique, voix, piano, claviers, prises de son, programmation instrumentale et arrangements par Claude Marc Bourget
Mixage par Carl Talbot, Productions Musicom

℗ Produit par Metis Islands Music
© Claude Marc Bourget

The Classical reviewer (review) / LEKEU / FRANCK / BOULANGER

« 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 ».

Brice Reader, The Classical reviewer

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 Hiratsukalaunch 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.

Full article on The classical reviewer


Classical Music (review) / LEKEU / FRANCK / BOULANGER

Four stars ★★★★

« Bednarz and Hiratsuka capture the post-Wagnerian sound world of Lekeu with a Gallic sensitivity, which also proves ideal in the Nocturne (…) »

Julian Haylock, BBC Music Magazine / www.classical-music.com


The Wholenote Magazine (review) / LEKEU / FRANCK / BOULANGER

Terry Robbins, The Wholenote Magazine / www.thewholenote.com

There’s another performance of the Franck Violin Sonata on a new CD featuring works by Lekeu, Franck and Boulanger from the Montreal violinist Frédéric Bednarz and pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka (Metis Islands Music MIM-0006).

Guillaume Lekeu and Lili Boulanger (Nadia’s younger sister) both died at the tragically young age of 24. Lekeu’s Sonata in G Major is a fine three-movement work, with its long violin lines and agitated piano in the outer movements somewhat reminiscent of the Franck, which was written just six years earlier. Bednarz’s beautiful sweetness of tone is evident right from the start.

Boulanger was always in fragile health, and her works often seem to display her awareness of her condition. Nocturne is a simply lovely and delightful piece, again perfectly suited to Bednarz’s sweet tone. The Franck Sonata is the centrepiece of the CD, and again it’s the tonal quality of the violin playing that makes the biggest impression. Hiratsuka gives perhaps a bit less weight to the piano part in the opening movement, and there seems to be less turbulence and urgency in the second movement than on the Ehnes/Armstrong CD, but this is still a strong, musical and highly enjoyable performance.


La Scena Musicale (review) / LEKEU / FRANCK / BOULANGER

6 ÉTOILES !  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 » Un must pour les amateurs de musique de chambre ».

Eric Champagne / La Scena Musicale

Les chambristes Frédéric Bednarz au violon et Natsuki Hiratsuka au piano ont concocté un album des plus divins! Le programme tout français regroupe deux sonates majeures du répertoire, celles de Lekeu et de Franck, ainsi qu’un petit nocturne de Lili Boulanger et le tout est interprété avec une finesse et un sens musical exquis. De la sonate de Guillaume Lekeu, l’oeuvre la plus connue de ce compositeur un peu oublié, voire négligé, les musiciens proposent une interprétation fluide et mouvante. Le caractère est toujours juste, le phrasé respire l’intimité et la tendresse, et la parfaite complicité des musiciens transparaît dans les moindres détails de cette charmante partition. La sonate de César Franck est ici abordée avec une aisance dans la tension et de l’émotion, tout en conservant une belle maîtrise des tempos et l’équilibre des instruments. Le charmant Nocturne de Lili Boulanger qui clôt le disque résume à lui seul l’ensemble de l’entreprise : en tensions et rêveries, ces deux musiciens sensibles et intelligents livrent une musique maîtrisée avec un naturel et une élégance délectables. Un must pour les amateurs de musique de chambre.




Sonata for violin and piano in G Major

Très modéré — Vif et passionné
Très lent
Très animé

Sonata for violin and piano in A Major

Allegretto ben moderato
Ben moderato: Recitativo-Fantasia
Allegretto poco mosso

Nocturne for violin and piano


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METIS ISLANDS MUSIC / Catalog number : MIM-006

Recorded February 21-22, 2015 Music Multimedia Room. (MMR), McGill University, Montreal | Sound engineer and mixing Jung Wook Hong | Mastering Carl Talbot (Le Lab Mastering) | Photo Annie Bouvrette | Design Claude Marc Bourget | Produced by Frederic Bednarz May 2015 MAY 2015 © Metis Islands Music MIM-0006

Fanfare (review) / LEKEU / FRANCK / BOULANGER

« Bednarz and Hiratsuka are well on their way to establishing themselves as a formidable violin and piano duo. Highly recommended ».

Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

Here is an interesting program which avoids the routine by pairing the over-familiar Franck Violin Sonata with the very much less often heard sonata by Guillaume Lekeu and the almost never heard Nocturne by Lili Boulanger. At least once told—perhaps twice—is the story of my first encounter with Lekeu’s sonata on a mid-1950s RCA LP, performed by Yehudi Menuhin and Marcel Gazelle. The piece struck me as a “wanderer’s fantasy” if ever there was one, as I kept an impatient eye on the turntable arm slowly making its way across the grooves and wondering, not when, but if it would ever end. Lekeu may have lived to be only 24 (1870–1894) and to have composed fewer than 30 works during his short lifespan, but not a few of them, including the Violin Sonata, lack nothing for length or ambition. I’ve since, of course, come to terms with Lekeu’s discursive style, which is characterized by a “restless chromaticism,” punctuated by the periodic upwelling of molten passion; and of late, his Violin Sonata seems to have emerged as his most representative work, with relatively recent recordings by Tasmin Little and Alina Ibragimova, to name just two. Lekeu was a student of César Franck, so Franck’s deservedly popular Violin Sonata—possibly his finest work—is a natural discmate for the Lekeu, but the Nocturne by Lili Boulanger adds an unusual touch to this program. Longer-lived than Lekeu by only one year, Lili Boulanger (1893–1918), who died at 25 of an intestinal disorder, was the younger and less famous sister of Nadia Boulanger, one of the most influential music educators and academicians of the 20th century. Sister Lili studied organ with Louis Vierne and may actually have inherited a more native talent for composition than did Nadia, but like Lekeu, she managed to leave fewer than three dozen works, most of which are short pieces for voice and piano or chorus and piano.

Boulanger’s Nocturne on this disc is dated 1911 and was composed originally for flute and piano, in which form it was recorded by Susan Milan and reviewed by Richard Burke in 19:2; and in an arrangement for flute and orchestra, in which form it was recorded by James Galway and reviewed by John Ditsky in 7:3. The alternate version for violin and piano was recorded by both Janine Jansen and Arnold Steinhardt, reviewed respectively by Robert Maxham in 34:6 and by John Bauman in 9:5. It’s a slight piece, just over three minutes in duration and somewhat in the style of a French salon number of the period, but the piano’s strangely Modernistic, off-kilter chords that accompany the none-too-rooted melody line, almost sound like they belong to a different piece. There’s something quirkily out of sync or out of sorts about this music that makes it strangely unsettling.p>

Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka are both new to me, though I see that they recorded a disc of Szymanowski and Shostakovich for this same label, which was well received by Robert Maxham in 38:2. For the Franck Sonata, of course, there is fierce competition, with many excellent versions to choose from. I will cite only two of my favorites, one of which is with Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires on Deutsche Grammophon (not Dumay’s remake with Louis Lortie on Onyx), and the other one of which is with Vadim Repin and Nikolai Lugansky, also on Deutsche Grammophon.

Bednarz and Hiratsuka take a somewhat different and actually refreshing approach to the piece, adopting slightly quicker tempos in all four movements and avoiding other players’ tendencies to exaggerate some of the score’s expressive excesses. Franck can never be accused of the sin of French aloofness and reserve; if anything, his music was criticized in its own time for being practically salacious in its super-heated sensuality. Bednarz downplays that aspect of the work with measured vibrato and tempered tone, while Hiratsuka keeps the line flowing. I don’t wish to convey the impression that this is a performance cleansed of emotion or passion; to the contrary, there’s a real sense of rapport between these players and Franck’s music. Rather, I’d describe the reading as one that restores a sense of Gallic balance and refinement to a work in which point-making is often inflated and italicized for dramatic effect. The Lekeu Sonata, a piece which slowly grows on you, is also very well done. With this second Metis Islands release, Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka are well on their way to establishing themselves as a formidable violin and piano duo. Highly recommended.



Robert Maxham, Fanfare / Fanfare

Violinist Frédéric Bednarz and pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka open the first movement of Karol Szymanowski’s early Violin Sonata with a commanding shot, and they maintain the level it sets as the movement proceeds. Bednarz proves himself capable of deploying a wide variety of violinistic effects, from the elusively shimmery to the soaringly declamatory. And that palette fits Szymanowski’s work to perfection. Hiratsuka’s a sympathetic partner, exploring in collaboration with him the composer’s colorful harmonies and lush melodies. She evinces a special sensitivity to the haunting sonorities that open the second movement; the duo brings a fey magic to the pizzicato middle section and returns to the opening section with an eerie reminiscence of Frédéric Chopin. They communicate the agitated state of the finale’s opening and rise to the emotional richness of the middle section. If Szymanowski’s sonata hasn’t yet penetrated the standard repertoire, Bednarz and Hiratsuka play it as though it should have.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Sonata, another work that seems to hesitate outside the canon without entering, displays a spiritual affinity for Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata in F Minor in the bleakness of its mood and in the bitter expostulations of its second movement. But Shostakovich’s sonata raises these emotional states to a higher power of expression. What sounds merely gloomy in Prokofiev’s work sounds desperate in Shostakovich’s; what sounds eerie in Prokofiev’s, terrifying in Shostakovich’s. David Oistrakh, the work’s dedicatee (what a birthday present!), didn’t soften the brutal impact the piece could make. Bednarz does, creating with Hiratsuka a kinder and gentler profile that might make it more accessible to general audiences (the elegance of Bednarz’s tone production perhaps makes that inevitable). But they haven’t violated its tough core, as their reading of the second movement shows. The final movement, a passacaglia (the same general form as the one the composer employed in his First Violin Concerto, but with an entirely different effect, although this movement also includes some moments of great nobility and even warmth), sounds ominously elegiac though not ponderous, and unsettled though resigned, in the duo’s reading. In Fanfare 26:5, I noted that although Ilya Grubert’s performance on Channel Classics 16398 conjured « a sonorous maelstrom in the Sonata’s second movement » it failed to capture « both the last measure of Oistrakh’s fervor and the caustic bite of his pessimism » (Mobile Fidelity 909) and in the Sonata’s last movement, just didn’t equal Oistrakh’s « depth of reflection. » Neither does the reading of Oistrakh’s own student, Lydia Mordkovich on Chandos 8988. And these reviews haunt me as I consider Bednarz’s and Hiratsuka’s case. Yet in Fanfare 30:2, I recognized the validity of Leila Josefowicz’s cogent yet very different realization of this dense and multifariously expressive work. How, then, do Bednarz and Hiratsuka measure up to this different standard? Bednarz sounds richer and loamier than does Josefowicz in the first movement, which he takes more than a minute slower (but the timing doesn’t tell the whole tale); he does so as well in the slow movement, but in that case, extra bite and energy enliven Josefowicz’s reading. The third movement differs in the two accounts, in part because of Josefowicz’s greater timbral edginess. Those who prefer a tonally more sumptuous reading, richer may prefer Bednarz’s version by about the same measure as those who lean to the eerily expressive may prefer Josefowicz’s.

With its clear recorded sound and its revelatory thoughtful performances, the duo’s release deserves a warm recommendation–especially, perhaps, for their ingratiating performance of Szymanowski’s sonata.



Terry Robbins, The Wholenote Magazine / www.thewholenote.com

The Montreal-born violinist Frederic Bednarz is joined by his wife, pianist Natsuki
Hiratsuka, in a CD of Sonatas for violin and piano by Szymanowski and Shostakovich (Metis Islands Music MIM-0004 metisislands. com). Karol Szymanowski’s Sonata in D Minor, Op.9, is an early work from 1904; it’s a traditional late-Romantic piece with more than a passing reference to the Franck sonata, and is given a clear, thoughtful reading by both players.

The Shostakovich Sonata Op.134 is, by contrast, a late work, written in 1968 for David Oistrakh’s 60th birthday; as with so much late Shostakovich, it never seems to shake that all-pervasive sense of nervous apprehension, desolation and loss of hope. Again, the playing is sensitive and clear, with a particularly effective Largo, the third and final movement which is almost as long as the first two movements put together. There could perhaps be a bit bigger emotional range in places – maybe more of a raw edge at times – but these are beautifully balanced and satisfying performances. The CD was recorded in McGill University’s Music Multimedia Room in Montreal, where Bednarz is a member of the Molinari String Quartet, the quartet in residence at the Montreal Conservatory.



Richard Whitehouse / Gramophone U.K.

These works, from either end of their composers’ output, make for an unlikely yet effective pairing. Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata (1909) is often seen as a product of the period when he was still in thrall to German late-Romanticism, yet echoes of Fauré, Franck and Enescu make its ‘French’ provenance the more tangible. Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka bring flexibility to the rhetoric of its initial Allegro, then underline the plaintiveness of the Andantino as well as the resolve of the finale when it builds to its decisive close: the piece emerging as formally more cohesive and expressively less wayward than is often the case.

Where Szymanowski luxuriates, Shostakovich ruminates: the latter’s Violin Sonata (1968) has often seemed among the most forbidding of his later works and it is to these performers’ credit that the speculative dialogue of the opening Moderato feels not in the least arid or the confrontational exchanges of the central Allegretto not lacking in textural clarity. Nor does the final Largo lose focus as it heads to its eloquent climax before returning to those fugitive gestures with which the work had begun.

Those who prefer to invest in these works as part of single-composer discs could well turn to Alina Ibragimova for the Szymanowski and Isabelle Faust for the Shostakovich. If the present coupling appeals, however, it should be acquired with confidence.