Pierre Fournier ∙ Volume 2

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PIERRE FOURNIER plays Bach, Brahms, Marais, Debussy & Encores – The Ludwigsburg recital 1957

01-06. Bach: Cello Suite No.6 in D major, BWV 1012 [21:15]
I. Prélude [05:20]
II. Allemande [04:03]
III. Courante [02:28]
IV. Sarabande [03:30]
V. Menuet I/II [03:53]
VI. Gigue [01:59]
07-10. Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99 [22:45]
I. Allegro vivace [06:23]
II. Adagio affettuoso [06:29]
III. Allegro passionato [05:49]
IV. Allegro molto [04:03]
11. Marin Marais: Les folies d’Espagne (La Folia) edited by Maurice Gendron [07:32]
12-14. Debussy: Cello Sonata, L.135 [10:39]
I. Prologue: Lent, sostenuto e molto risoluto [04:06]
II. Sérénade: Modérément animé [03:09]
III. Final: Animé, léger et nerveux [03:23]
15. Fauré: Élégie, Op. 24 [06:45]
16. Granados: Tonadilla [02:38]
17. Ravel: Pièce en forme de Habanera [02:34]
18. Bach: Prélude, Cello Suite No.6 in D major, BWV 1012 [03:36]

Recorded ∙ 09 March 1957 ∙ Ludwigsburg ∙ Schloss-Ordenssaal ∙ Süddeutscher Rundfunk ∙ Live Recording
Pierre Fournier ∙ cello
Franz Holetschek ∙ piano

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Pierre Léon Marie Fournier was born on June 24, 1906 into a distinguished family in Paris. His grandfather was a famous sculptor who, among other monuments, made the statues of the renowned Pont Alexandre III in Paris. His father Gaston Emile Fournier was a French Army general, and later became the Governor of Corsica. It was from his mother Désirée Gabrielle Morice that he inherited his love of music and received piano lessons. While on a family holiday in Normandy, a near tragedy shaped his destiny in music for at the age of nine young Fournier was stricken by polio which left him unable to reach the pedals of the piano. He turned to the cello and received early training from Odette Krettly, and from 1918 he studied with André Hekking and later with Paul Bazelaire at the Paris Conservatoire. He graduated at the age of seventeen, in the year 1923. Maurice Maréchal called him “the cellist of the future.”

One of Fournier’s first Paris concerts was a recital with Jeanine Krettly-Peres (Odette’s sister) in February 1924 at the Salle Erard. The violinist Robert Krettly (Odette’s elder brother) heard the young cellist and lost no time in inviting him to join his string quartet together with the violinist René Costard and violist Georges Taine. His concerto debut on 25 January 1927 came about by accident: he was again asked to replace the ailing Hekking, this time with the Concerts Colonne Orchestra, which received favorable notices. On 27 January 1929 he performed the Schumann concerto with the Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire under Philippe Gaubert and he began a successful career as a touring concert artist and as a performer in chamber music concerts, gaining a great reputation in Germany, England, Poland and Netherlands. He gave his first London recital in December 1934, and broadcast for the first time for BBC early in 1935. In 1937 to 1939, he was the director of cello studies at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. In 1941, he became a member of the faculty at the Paris Conservatoire. During the German occupation of his country in the Second World War he mostly performed in France and recorded for Radio-Paris. He was engaged to play trio concerts at Paris’s Salle Pleyel on 17, 22 and 24 June 1943. He performed the Schumann Cello Concerto four times with the Berlin Philharmonic under Wilhelm Furtwängler on 13, 14, 15 and 16 November 1943 in Berlin. From 1938 to 1944 Fournier recorded his first 78s as a recording artist of Pathé-Marconi.

On 16 October 1945, Fournier was sentenced to six months of non-activity by the French National Purging Committee, which was chaired by his colleague, the cellist Maurice Maréchal. “I am pleased to announce the following information: M. Pierre Fournier was sentenced by the French National Purging Committee’s Professional Branch for Dramatic and Lyric Artists and Performing Musicians to 6 months of non-activity. Furthermore, in view of the 82 broadcasts he performed over the German “Radio-Paris” for a total income of 192,400 Francs, the elimination schedule established by the Board of Directors of the French National Radio, as applied to M. Pierre Fournier, banned him from our programs until February 1, 1948.”

In late 1945 Walter Legge, who had become artistic director of His Master’s Voice label, undertook his first European tour, with the aim if securing the most promising artists for the Gramophone Company. During his stay in Paris he asked Francis Poulenc about French instrumentalists, and Poulenc recommended Dinu Lipatti, Samson François, Ginette Neveu, Arthur Grumiaux and Pierre Fournier. Immediately Legge had the cellist’s contracts with Pathé Records transferred to HMV. In 1946 Artur Schnabel invited him to take part in a cycle of Beethoven concertos which he was giving at London’s Royal Albert Hall. At the performance of the Triple Concerto he encountered in Schnabel his first really distinctive partner. Joseph Szigeti, meeting Fournier in rehearsals for a 1947 Edinburgh Festival appearance, had not heard him for over ten years and wrote that he was “tremendously impressed by the Apollonian beauty and poise that his playing had acquired in the intervening years. Szigeti, Fournier, violist William Primrose, and pianist Artur Schnabel formed a piano quartet in those years and gave some fabled concerts at which they played virtually all of Schubert’s and Brahms’ piano chamber music. Sadly, the BBC acetate air checks of this cycle were allowed to deteriorate and have been lost.

He toured the US in 1948 but they soon became an embarrassment when someone found out that he worked with the Nazis during the occupation of France. In 1949 he was cited as Nazi and War Criminal by the American Veterans Committee, who warned Bruno Zirato, manager of the New York Philharmonic about the planned appearance of Fournier with the New York Philharmonic, “The Musicians Chapter of the American Veterans Committee calls to your attention the enclosed official collaborationist record and judgement against the French cellist, Pierre Fournier, who has been listed as a possible soloist with the Philharmonic Symphony Society for the 1940-50 seasons.” Fournier’s American manager, Jack Adams, wrote to Zirato on May 5, 1949: “Surely Bruno, you cannot take this seriously. After all the letter that was sent by the French radio only says that he was sentenced to 6 months of non-activity. This was general with all French artists who had played in Paris during occupations. They do not, however tell you that he was cleared by the Purification committee, that he was re-instated as a professor of the Conservatory, and I believe not long ago was awarded the Legion of Honor. This whole thing is a mountain out of a moe-hill”. Zirato finally wrote to Leon Goldstein, chairman of American Veterans Committee: “We have your letter regarding Mr. Fournier, who has appeared during the past two years in many cities in America, including New York. Of course a contract has been signed now for his appearance with the Philharmonic, and we regret that nothing can be done at this time”. Fournier made his first and only appearances with the New York Philharmonic on 3, 4 and 6 November 1949, playing the Schumann Cello Concerto under Leopold Stokowski.

He was a frequent soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic under Celibidache (1951), Knappertsbusch (1952), Böhm (1957), Rosbaud (1958), Kubelik (1961), Keilberth (1963), Sargent (1965), Barbirolli (1967) and Karajan (1956, 1958, 1963, 1965). He had a broad repertoire, including Bach, Boccherini, the Romantics, Debussy, Hindemith, and Prokofiev. Composers Martinu, Martinon, Martin, Roussel, and Poulenc all wrote works for him.

In 1972, he retired to Switzerland and gave master classes. He still gave concerts, even as late as 1984 when he was 78, and a London critic praised the fluency of his playing and his strong and solid left-hand technique.

Pierre Fournier died on January 8, 1986 after suffering from a stroke at his Geneva home, at the age of 79.

Notes by Michael Waiblinger, © 2014

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Article number: MC 3010
UPC barcode: 791154054161
Recording dates: 1957
Release date: March 2015
Total timing: 77:55

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to Ulrich Karla
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2015 Meloclassic