Christian Ferras

8.99 €

What is immediately evident when listening to these never published before German radio recordings is the lush, tonal beauty Christian Ferras produces and his magnificent intonation. Needless that hardly you will find such level of lyrical expressiveness, vibrant musicality and enraptured inspiration. In the Tartini evil's trill sonata and Mozart's violin sonata K.526, which he never recorded commercially, Ferras is accompanied by Pierre Barbizet whom he had met in 1949 at the International Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition, and who would accompany Ferras for thirty years. Both offer readings of unforced musicality and sheer rightness. They are wonderfully attuned to each other.


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CHRISTIAN FERRAS plays Bach, Tartini and Mozart

1-4. BACH: Sonata for Violin Solo No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003 [20:28]
Recorded · 29 February 1956 · Frankfurt · Raum 1/D · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording
Christian Ferras · solo violin

5-8. BACH: Sonata for Violin Solo No.3 in C Major, BWV 1005 [21:53]
Recorded · 03 February 1960 · Frankfurt · Sendesaal · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording
Christian Ferras · solo violin

9. TARTINI: Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 10/1 ‘Devil’s trill’ [12:44]
Recorded · 29 February 1956 · Frankfurt · Raum 1/D · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording
Christian Ferras · violin
Pierre Barbizet · piano

10-12. MOZART: Violin Sonata in A Major, K.526 [18:03]
Recorded · 12 April 1957 · Frankfurt · Raum 1/D · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording
Christian Ferras · violin
Pierre Barbizet · piano

Additional Information

Article number: MC 2001
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050231
Total time: 73:09

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
With special thanks to Christof Honecker
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Christian Georges Ferras was born on June 17, 1933 in Le Touquet. He started to play the violin at the age of six, when his father brought a small violin home for him to divert his mind from an illness. Ferras had a scar on his left hand exactly where his father had one – the accident which finished his father’s career. Fortunately the son, who also cut his hand on a broken bottle, did not receive a cut so deep that it destroyed the nerves. Ferras was practising four hours and one year later in 1941, he entered the Nice Conservatory to study with Charles Bistesi. At age 10, he won the first prize of the Nice Conservatory by playing the Beethoven Romance. In August 1944 his family made it possible for him to be in Paris to attend the Paris Conservatory where he studied the violin under Rene Benedetti and chamber music under Joseph Calvet.

In 1946, barely in his teens, he was awarded first prizes in violin (playing the Brahms concerto) and chamber music of the Paris Conservatory. His professional debut took place in October 1946 as soloist playing Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole with the Concerts Pasdeloup under Albert Wolff and a week later Beethoven’s violin concerto. Between 1947 and 1955, he worked with George Enescu, who also acted as an instructor.

Small of stature but sumptuous of tone, Ferras represented the best of the Franco-Belgian violin school. Of his two main teachers, René Benedetti inculcated a respect for technique and George Enescu broadened his outlook. In May 1948, the jury of the International Competition of Scheveningen, chaired by Yehudi Menuhin, awarded the first prize to Ferras. It was during this contest that Ferras met pianist Pierre Barbizet with whom he formed a congenial duo which lasted for more than two decades. In the same year he joined Menuhin and Szigeti at the Strasbourg Bach Festival.

In 1949 he was victor of the International Competition Long-Thibaud, with a second prize (the first prize was not awarded), following a number of extensive tours to the Belgian Congo and South Africa (1951), Germany (1951), South America (1952), Italy (1953). In 1956, he played 137 concerts in Australia Central and South America, contributing to a total of over 1.000 concerts this 24 years old violinist had given in a decade.

In 1954, a company insured his hands for £ 50,000. They stipulated that Ferras must not engage in any energetic sports. Other conditions included no hunting and no tiger shooting!

He made a phenomenally successful United States debut with the Boston Symphony under the baton of Charles Munch performing the Brahms concerto in March 25, 1959. All Boston critics, later gave him the most enthusiastic praise, following his Canada debut with the Montreal Symphony the preceding year. In 1962, he made his American debut as solo recitalist, under the auspices of Columbia Artists Management. He had been twice invited by Pablo Casals to play at the Prades and Puerto Rico Casals Festivals.

His cooperation and recordings with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic during the 1960s marked the pinnacle of his career. Ferras performed with the Berlin Philharmonic between 1951 and 1968 sixteen times, starting in 1951 with the Beethoven concerto under Böhm, 1952 Brahms concerto under Cluytens, 1953 Mendelssohn concerto under Markevitch, 1955 Tschaikowsky concerto under Sawallisch, 1961 Brahms concerto under Jochum, and 1958 (Mendelssohn), 1968 (Brahms), 1971 (Sibelius) under Karajan. With the same orchestra, he gave his Salzburg debut on August 17, 1960 performing the Berg Concerto under Joseph Keilberth. And returned to Salzburg in 1971 playing a recital with Jean-Claude Ambrosini as pianist.

The Sibelius concerto, for instance, he learned in 18 hours, finger and note-wise. It took much longer to get the music learned. How a man who plays 24 concerts in 35 days throughout the United States, South America and Europe can find time for hobbies, he was once asked: “Of course I have hobbies. I adore swimming, driving American cars and playing cards. I was just filled with joy over my new Thunderbird car and anxious for a poker game following my rehearsal last day.” In his prime, he played around 150 concerts each year – 80 with orchestra, 50 sonata programs with piano and the rest solo recitals. His wife was an excellent cook and a favourite pastime for Ferras was to accompany her to the market in Cannes.

He purchased in 1954, the Stradivarius “Le Président” 1721 and in 1967, the Stradivarius “Milanollo” 1728 and with his death it became the property of Pierre Amoyal. His career took a tragic turn when, towards the middle of the 1960s, he began battling with depression and alcoholism. Throughout the 1970s, his concert activity decreased considerably. His health was faltering. Ferras passed detoxification attempts to revive his career. Number of contracts were not honoured. In 1975, he accepted a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire and in the following years he no longer performed publicly. Ferras returned to the concert platform in March 1982. His gift and love for the art wasn’t enough for the illustrious Ferras, as he took his own life on September 14th, 1982, only three weeks after his final concert on 25 August 1982. He was 49.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014


STRAD Review August 2014

Fervent performances unearthed after over a half a century. Thursday, 21 August 2014

A disc of Christian Ferras (1933–82) on the Meloclassic label devoted to unissued concert and broadcast performances by historical artists (in this case well recorded for Hesse Radio in Germany between (1956 and 1960) features towering interpretations of unaccompanied Bach. Vibrato is often high-octane and the implacably imposing A minor Fugue and Allegro allow for little light and shade. Still, the edifices of sound Ferras achieves are often glorious and the slow movements nearly ache with his acute sensitivity. The C major Sonata is on a higher plane, the poignancy of the Adagio and the vitality of the Fugue’s voices evocative of Bach’s Passions. One may well dispute aspects of style, but this is Bach in flesh and blood – profoundly humane and stirring stuff.

The Mozart Sonata is more tempered, both vigorous and elegant, with ever-vivid interaction between Ferras and his marvellous partner Pierre Barbizet, and just a hint of pathos in lyrical phrases. The jewel in the disc’s crown is the stupendous account of the ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata, brimming with skill and imagination. Ferras’s unique blend of refinement and demonic intensity is at its apex, and Barbizet’s support is superb.

Meloclassic boasts a rich and growing catalogue of exceptional interest. Recent releases include great performances by Henry Merckel, Michèle Auclair, René Benedetti and many other, often-forgotten artists. I urge readers to discover them.

© Nathaniel Vallois

Musicweb International Classical Review August 2014

All the music in this Meloclassic release was recorded in the Frankfurt radio studios between 1956 and 1960. Only the two Bach solo sonatas formed part of Christian Ferras’ commercial discography but fortunately supplementary material, such as this, exists to introduce listeners to those pieces that the short-lived Ferras never had the chance to record.

One such is Tartini’s staple, the Devil’s Trill Sonata. It comes from the same broadcast as the A minor Bach sonata, given on 29 February 1956. His regular accompanist, Pierre Barbizet, was with him. Ferras’ concern for dynamics and elegant phrase-tapering are audible almost from the start, as is his ability to vest his tone with requisite pathos. As a result the paragraphs which, in less nuanced hands, can be potentially repetitious are finely characterised and subtly contrasted. Deft bowing is an ally of dynamic gradients in this performance and a strongly athletic technique ensures a reading of considerable but elegant excitement. The two Bach solo sonatas can join his LP recording for Sine Ova Non Superba [SAS 2028/3]. Here elegance is accompanied by contrapuntal clarity but there is requisite crunch in his chording – especially in the A minor – to alert us to the vibrancy of his reading. The C major Sonata was recorded in February 1960 and again there is some biting articulation and a degree of abrasive playing that lifts it far above the ranks of the comfortable. This is especially true of the Fuga where not all the playing is above reproach but the intonation remains excellent.

He and Barbizet offered Frankfurt Radio Mozart’s A major sonata, K526. Their commercial recordings of K305 and K376 – on Decca LX3141 – are therefore happily augmented by this live reading. Neither Ferras nor the engineers fortunately presumed to boost his accompanying figures and he maintains a fine differentiation between ‘lead and follow’ throughout. The ensemble is watertight, as one might expect, and there’s a warmly communicative slow movement to enjoy. The finale has elegance and brio in equal measure, with attractive rise and fall, and plenty of rhythmic vitality.

As with so many of these German broadcasts the recorded sound is excellent for the time, and lacks problematic features. There are good notes with well reproduced small photographs of the protagonist of this disc. This is another valuable release from Meloclassic, a label that continues to show perceptive judgement in its releases – both as to artist and repertoire.

© Jonathan Woolf

Musicweb International Classical Review June 2014

Meloclassic, a new label to hit the marketplace, was founded in Germany in December 2013. It’s aim is the release of ‘previously unissued historical recordings of live radio performances’, considered to be of artistic value. The initial catalogue which, I am told, has taken a year to compile, consists of fifty-five titles. Ten new releases will be released each quarter. Also on the agenda is the exciting prospect of DVDs of unreleased historical television programmes – a mouth-watering prospect.

On offer here are radio broadcasts recorded between 1956 and 1960 of the French violinist Christian Ferras. He was born in Le Touquet, France in 1933. Starting violin lessons with his father, he entered the Conservatoire de Nice aged eight and from there progressed to the Paris Conservatoire in 1944, where he won prizes for violin and chamber music. For a time, Georges Enesco was his mentor. His early years were spent travelling the world giving concerts. He represents the very best attributes of the Franco-Belgian School. His life ultimately ended tragically. Battling alcoholism and depression from the mid-sixties onwards, his career suffered as a result. He did, however, accept a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire in 1975, and made a comeback to concert-giving in the early part of 1982. Yet, this rehabilitation was to be short-lived. Tragically on 14 September 1982, he took his own life at the relatively young age of 49 – a tremendous loss.

What is immediately evident when listening to these recordings is the lush, tonal beauty Ferras produces. His bow arm is capable of drawing a large-scaled sonority. This sumptuous tone is well suited to the solo Bach Sonatas featured here. He brings to these a rough hewn and earthy quality. Intonation has a dead-centre accuracy, and phrasing and dynamics are all delivered with stylistic fidelity to the score. In the fugues the contrapuntal strands are teased out with clarity. It’s big-boned playing. There is a very fine set of the complete solo Sonatas and Partitas which the violinist recorded in the USA in 1977 on the Ages label (509 008) — well worth tracking down.

In the remaining items, Ferras is partnered by the French pianist Pierre Barbizet. They met in 1949 when the violinist won second prize in the International Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition. Theirs was a distinguished partnership which lasted for many years. They recorded the complete sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven; for me a highlight of this famous partnership.

The Ferras “Devil’s Trill’ is captivating, with drama and élan. The crisp articulation of the ‘trill’ second movement calls to mind Szeryng’s performance with Charles Reiner; Ferras plays the original version, whereas Szeryng, if my memory serves me correctly, uses the Kreisler arrangement. The Mozart sonata is imbued with grace and charm. As with all his performances, it is marked by good taste. He brings a fervent quality to the second movement, an expressive shaping of phrases very much in the manner of Menuhin. Maybe it was the influence of Enesco.

Unlike some of the violinists featured in the Meloclassic’s catalogue, the Ferras discography of both live and commercial recordings is relatively large. On the plus side, the recordings here are first CD releases, augmenting his live discography. Many will be familiar with his collaborations with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in which he recorded the Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos, the highpoint in his recording career. These have never been out of the catalogue and are still regarded highly.

Sound quality for these late-fifties broadcasts is exceptionally clear and well-defined. They have been re-mastered using high-quality master tapes. The CD comes in a well-constructed, space-saving Digipak case. Three pages of liner notes, in English, give a biographical portrait of the artist, together with a selection of black and white photographs.

All told, this is a valuable addition to the Ferras discography, and will be warmly welcomed by violin aficionados like myself.

© Stephen Greenbank

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