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Eliot Lawson, Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen | Paul Paray - Works for strings and piano

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Classical: Chamber Music Classical: Sonata Moods: Type: Instrumental
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Paul Paray - Works for strings and piano

by Eliot Lawson, Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen

The inventive quality of Paul Paray's melodies and the refinement of his harmonies are well aligned with the French school tradition.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sonate pour violon et piano: 1. Allegro moderato
Eliot Lawson & Diane Andersen
10:27 $0.99
2. Sonate pour violon et piano: 2. Allegretto amabile
Eliot Lawson & Diane Andersen
6:31 $0.99
3. Sonate pour violon et piano: 3. Molto vivo
Eliot Lawson & Diane Andersen
10:00 $0.99
4. Sérénade, Op. 20 pour violon et piano
Eliot Lawson & Diane Andersen
2:02 $0.99
5. Humoresque pour violon et piano
Eliot Lawson & Diane Andersen
2:45 $0.99
6. Nocturne pour violoncelle et piano
Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen
3:52 $0.99
7. Sonate pour violoncelle et piano: 1. Andante quasi allegretto
Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen
10:46 $0.99
8. Sonate pour violoncelle et piano: 2. Andante
Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen
8:57 $0.99
9. Sonate pour violoncelle et piano: 3. Allegro scherzando
Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen
7:28 $0.99
10. Romance pour violon, violoncelle et piano
Eliot Lawson, Samuel Magill & Diane Andersen
4:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“All music must be singable”, this was Paul Paray’s conviction right from childhood; lulled by the oratorios directed by his father, an ivory engraver who carried out the functions of Chapel Master at the church of Le Tréport (Normandy). There, he was initiated very early into the keyboard, kettledrums, and cello. When he was nine years old, Paul was admitted to the choir school (‘Maîtrise’) of Saint-Evode in the cathedral of Rouen, where he was initiated into the art of plainchant by the Canon Adolphe Bourdon and became a brilliant pupil of the organist Jules Haëlling, playing from memory at age 14 all the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

A Magnificat in A flat composed for the 1901 holy days bears the mark of this background and absorption. In his adolescence, he wrote his first pieces for piano and organ even as he discovered the musicians and poets of his time. Paray could sight read the sheet music of César Franck, Anton Bruckner, and Max Reger and seemed destined for a career of instrumentalist. During a vacation at Le Tréport, Henri Dallier, the famous organist of La Madeleine in Paris, noticed the gifted young man and insisted that his family send him to the Paris Music Conservatory. The years of study (1904-1908) in classes with Xavier Leroux, Georges Caussade, Charles Lenepveu, and Paul Vidal saw the birth of many of Paray’s works. “I compose while riding on the top floor of the bus, in the trains, anywhere…,all is done in my head and I only have to transcribe it to paper”.

In January 1908, Paray dedicated a ‘Sérénade’, to the virtuoso violinist Jean Ten Have (1873-1952), a pupil of Ysaÿe who would be teaching at the Cincinnati conservatory of music as of 1917. The date of creation of this 3/8 piece in D major with hints of a rapid waltz is not known.

A ‘Romance’ for piano in A major, dated 1909, was dedicated to his sister Marie, who was an excellent pianist. Father Eduard Perrone adapted it for violin, cello, and piano in 2005 in order to complete a concert program. This work lends itself to three-part execution by its formal structure: the piano supports the harmonic progression, while the melodies entrusted to the strings exude charm and sensibility. After a first flexible, singing theme offered by the cello there follows a more dramatic pattern in F sharp for the violin, making allusion to an old mariner’s song: ”What do they do, sailors, when the wind is against them?” The lyric effusion characteristic of Paray’s style meshes harmoniously with the formal rigor of the piece.

Newly arrived in Paris in 1909, Manuel Quiroga Losada (1892-1961) joined the conservatory class of Edouard Nadaud, where he obtained the first prize in violin two years later, before starting his long career. Sensing the genius of the young Galician, Paray perceptively portrayed the violinist’s character in the 2/4 ‘Humoresque’ in A major which he composed for him, alternating the mischief of the first theme, sustained by syncopations in the piano, with the cajoling softness of the central part with its discreet touch of Spanishness. As Carol-Bérard wrote later: “his bow caresses the strings tenderly but also knows how to bound like a sprite”. Their friendship was to last, and they played music together many times throughout the years. In 1922, for instance, Losada played Paray’s ‘Sonata’ with the composer at the piano.

The ‘Nocturne’ in E flat, completed in Paris in March 1911, deploys a warm, undulating chant that reflects the radiant kindness of its dedicatee, Paul Roussel (1884-1916), violinist and composer, a fellow student in the conservatory composition class. After winning the First Grand Prize of Rome (‘Premier Grand Prix de Rome’), Paray stayed at the Villa Médicis from 1911 until 1914. Then a new period of intense music production started.

The project of a ‘Sonata for violin and piano’ went back to his first years at the Conservatory; he completed it in 1908, but its first public performance had to wait for March 30, 1914, at the Salle Erard in Paris. Paul Paray came back from Rome especially to accompany the violinist Hélène Jourdan.

The sonata opens with an ‘Allegro moderato’ in C minor introduced by a tonic ostinato pedal calling to memory the initial formula of Roussel’s ‘Trio’ (1902). Upon this ternary rhythm, by way of contrast there come four hammered quarter notes, adding a feeling of menace. The principal theme with its very Massenet-like seduction is drawn out in the piano before the violin pushes it to new heights. Crystalline sonorities from the piano alternate with the fluidity of the violin passages. After an inventive development with complex harmonies and subtle modulations, the dual exchange tapers off and ends in a vaporous ‘ppp’.

The ‘Allegro amabile’ in A flat major gets its attractive country quality from the anapestic call of the first simple theme and the humorous hip-swaying syncopated pattern relayed by the violin (sort of an elegant wink to the cake walk of Debussy’s ‘Children’s Corner’ which dates from the same year). Whimsical and light, the instruments conduct a dialogue with communicative verve. A central meditation softens the atmosphere, revealing Paray’s propensity for dreams and mystery. The final re-exposition, not unlike a tired music box, fades away progressively.

The ‘Molto vivo’ in E flat major seems to stamp its feet in a diabolic tarantella. A lyrical theme follows, powered by arpeggios from the piano, then comes another pattern sustained by broken chords in the left hand, whose designs suggest 6/8 time to excellent effect. The development of rhythmic games and exchanges between the musicians allows for pleasant discoveries. Staccato octaves precede the return of the themes in inverse order before the glowing accelerando that concludes this sparkling final.

Reminding us of César Franck, structuring elements are found naturally throughout the different movements. This sonata from his youth, brilliant and full of energy, shows how much the unusual melodic spontaneity of Paul Paray, close to the style of Gabriel Fauré, meshes intimately with his deep knowledge of composition.

His oratorio ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ was played in Rouen Cathedral at the opening of the commemorative ceremonies in May 1913, then in Rome in May 1914. The First World War abruptly ended this happy and fruitful era. Taken prisoner at Faverolles in Champagne and interned at Darmstadt, Paul Paray worked out in his mind his Sonata for cello and piano and his String Quartet, but transcribed the notes on paper only after his return to France in December 1918. Those terrible years of moral and physical depression hardly affected his creativity; his style ripened and gained in complexity.

The first performance of the ‘Sonata for cello and piano’ was given on January 29, 1920, in the Salle Erard in Paris, by its dedicatee Gérard Hekking (1879-1942), an excellent musician who also painted the cliffs of Le Tréport. Conceived for an instrument favoring inner dialog and introspection–which Paray had played in his early youth and whose every possibility was known to him–, fed by the experience of his captivity, this work displays a more intense lyricism, and darker, more concentrated content which makes us think of the language of Lekeu. His joy here is less freely expressed than in his works of the period spent in Rome. The rhythm of dotted eighth note + sixteenth note is structurally important throughout this opus.

The ‘Andante quasi Allegretto’ in B major presents an implacable progression imbued with restless urgency; beginning with the Poco meno vivo, it is exacerbated by an obsessive triplet of sixteenth notes. The density of the counterpoint reinforces a dramatic feeling accentuated by the occasional chromatism or uneven rhythm. Nothing, not even the second theme which is more restrained, can diminish this move toward the abyss.

In opposition with the violin Sonata, which actually contains no slow movement, the Andante sets up a poignant lament. Mattheson considered the tonality of E minor to express “trouble and chagrin, but in such a way that we hope for consolation”. It could not have been better chosen in this case. The cello spells out an ‘a capella’ melody underlined by octaves and grating seconds delivered in the same rhythm by the piano. As a reminiscence of the war, the complaint stretches out into desolation and stupor. Rarely has Paray sung with so much pain. The rhythmic formula of two sixteenth notes + eighth note is transformed into a barely contained sob. The lamentation reappears in the cello alone in the last measures and dies out on a low E.

Contrasting with this tragic meditation, an unbridled jubilation runs through the ‘Allegro scherzando’ which returns to the main key of B major. The broken octaves return this time with a euphoric will. The jubilation explodes into a confusing mastery of written composition. Repeated notes, perky patterns, burlesque elements, mirrors of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and music hall influence ricochet in perpetual fireworks.

Nothing suggested that the pianist-composer, whose works were regularly performed, would soon undertake a brilliant career of orchestra conductor. In the summer of 1919, impelled by economic necessity, he agreed to direct the orchestra of the Cauterets Casino (in the Hautes-Pyrénées, south-western France). He never had learned how to conduct an orchestra but discovered that he did have “an arm”. In parallel with his activities of conductor, Paray pursued his composition efforts, notably two ‘Symphonies’. The first, in C, was created on March 31, 1935, at the ‘Concerts Colonne’ in Paris; the second, in A major, subtitled “Le Tréport,” premiered at the Châtelet theater in April 1940. After the Second World War, swept by a whirlwind of activities (reorganization of the Colonne Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the creation of the new Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and numerous international tours), Paul Paray stopped writing music to focus on his work of interpretation and as orchestra (re)builder and ambassador of French music. In 1950 the composer was elected to the chair of Henri Rabaud in the Academy of Beaux-Arts of the Institute of France. He passed away in Monaco on October 1979 at the age of 93, while preparing to direct once again the Philharmonie of Monte-Carlo and the Orchestra of Paris.

Damien Top
President of the "Cercle Paul Paray"



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