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Duncan Druce
Gramophone, February 2013

THE SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO…Forgotten 19th-century violin concertos: # 4

A fresh, original work, with surprising and successful stylistic juxtapositions. Benjamin Godard (1849–95) abandons traditional concerto form in favour of a suite-like structure, in which the first three of the four movements are linked by dramatic recitatives. The first and third movements bring us close to the world of ballet, while the second, a mournful aria, strikes a more profound note. Hanslip’s playing is a delight. © 2013 Gramophone




Penguin Guide, January 2009

Benjamin Godard was an excellent violinist and his style was essentially that of the middle, rather than late, 19th century. He was especially attracted to the music of Schumann. Quite a prodigious composer, he wrote in many forms, though he was perhaps most successful as a miniaturist—his popular Berceuse is his best-known work. The Violin Concerto No. 2 begins in a dramatic manner, though richly romantic melodies quickly take over. A brooding slow movement follows, followed by an exceptionally gay and vivacious finale—where the spirit of Offenbach enters. The much earlier Concerto Romantique is written in four movements. The opening movement has a lively, rustic quality which is very appealing, while the two slower central movements have much sentimental charm. The finale begins dramatically with the orchestra, but the violin enters, contrastingly, Agitato ed appassionato molto. The mood lightens with a perky violin theme about 90 seconds in, and the work ends brilliantly with a riot of double-stops and the like from the soloist. The Scènes poétiques are four bucolic movements depicting outdoor scenes: In the Woods, In the Fields, On the Mountain and In the Village. They are delightfully picturesque, in the manner of Massenet’s Scènes for orchestra. Whilst none of the music on this CD is especially deep, or even great music, it is all thoroughly entertaining and tuneful, made all the more enjoyable when so persuasively presented. Well worth the asking price.



Ian Lace
Fanfare, August 2008

…Godard was especially inspired by the music of Robert Schumann—he orchestrated Schumann’s Kinderszenen in 1876. Mendelssohn is clearly another influence; conversely, the overblown Romanticism of Wagner was not to Godard’s taste. The author of the notes to this present recording, Bruce R. Schueneman, observes that Godard’s music “has sometimes been criticized for superficiality and ‘over-hastiness,’ and truly he composed at a prodigious pace, reaching op. 100 in 1886, while still in his thirties.” This haste is apparent in the erratic quality of his orchestral writing in these two concertos…Godard might be said to over-favor the soloist with sweetly romantic tunes and virtuoso writing, yet Chloë Hanslip relishes them. The cadenza of Concerto No. 2’s first movement presents challenges of double, triple, and quadruple stops as well as a glissando run. The lyrical beauty of the opening movement of Concerto No.2 is not sustained in the rather cloying Adagio central movement that tends to sag in the middle, but the whimsical, final Allegro non troppo is a bouncy delight.

Godard’s Concerto romantique is a much earlier work and is cast in four movements. After a relatively short but dramatic opening movement, there is a graceful and poignant Adagio with passionate pleading; Hanslip is especially expressive here. The attractive third Canzonetta movement is relatively well known and, until the mid 20th century, was often published by itself or in collections or violin and piano arrangements. The work is rounded off with the high-spirited Allegro molto.

The four-movement Scenes poetiques is scored for orchestra only. This is charming, easy listening, winsomely crafted, light music.



Ian Lace
Fanfare, July 2008

This is charming, easy listening, winsomely crafted, light music. “Dans les bois” (In the woods) has a delicate waltz, the music, often ballet-like, suggesting, perhaps, nymphs dancing in sultry, dappled woodlands. “Dans les champs” (In the fields) is a bucolic scene with country dance music that, in places, sounds remarkably like an Elgarian miniature. “Sur la montagne” (On the mountain) is a gentle sunny ascent to an imposing peak, while “Au village” (In the village) is a delightfully rowdy rural celebration.




Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, June 2008

Chloe Hanslip (b. 1987) has already made a reputation as a violin wunderkind, a protege of Yehudi Menuhin and sponsored by many other musicians, including Justus Frantz. The music of Paris-born Benjamin Godard (1849–1896) might make an unlikely vehicle for an aspiring virtuoso, but this disc (rec. 1–5 June 2007) provides enough firepower to rate as tantamount to what Ruggiero Ricci did with the music of Sarasate and rare Paganini a generation ago. Godard has remained a singular success forever: the Berceuse from his 1888 opera Jocelyn became the darling of such diverse artists as John McCormack and Pablo Casals. Godard himself studied with Henri Vieuxtemps, and he based his own concertos on the romantic forms of the older master. While the Second Concerto is a late work, the Concerto Romantique is an early work and features a four-movement structure, whose Canzonetta charmed artists as different in temperament as Alfredo Campoli and Jascha Heifetz.The Op. 131 throws big, rhetorical gestures at us, with throbbing bass lines and exalted runs, half-steps, and triplets, a fervent ethos that wends its way to a bravura cadenza calling for double, triple, and quadruple stops. Musical sophisticates trying to guess who wrote this piece will venture Lalo or Bruch. More virtuoso bass-line triplets in the Adagio quasi andante while the French horn and violin float their way from a Tristanesque—maybe Chopinesque—opening tune to the 6/8 middle section of some tympani-driven, emotional power before it returns to the 4/4 pearly gates. The last movement, a 2/4 reel with all sorts of woodwind and brass flutters and runs, sasses its way into a rondo of witty colors, catchy in the manner of Littolf’s famous Scherzo. The Concerto Romantique begins in a martial mode, a sixteen-measure orchestral introduction having set the tone. A sweetly lyric Adagio non troppo, again with a tympanic, thundering bass, undergirds the flowing melody that leads—after an accompanied recitative—directly to the famed, trippingly coy Canzonetta section. Hanslip plays each melodic statement as if she were playing Massenet’s Meditation from Thais or a gossamer moment from Saint-Saens. More militant derring-do from Godard and Hanslip for the finale, quite passionate, as marked, and bristling with double-stops and “perpetual,” breathless filigree calculated to raise our musical eyebrows in awe and admiration.The seventeen-minute suite of four Poetic Scenes, Op. 46 are topological post-cards from the woods, the countryside, the mountains, and the village, respectively. Conservative in the manner of Massenet, they testify to a homogeneity of thought in musical idea and in orchestration, easy on the intake. The first three bucolic pieces yield to a more busy hamlet in the last section, a breezy boulevardier’s song that touches the light French music hall and hints at mood pieces by Eric Coates and Percy Grainger.



Roderick Dunnett
The Strad, May 2008

This disc proves what Naxos does pre-eminently well: introducing unfamiliar repertoire by lesser-known composers on both sides of the Atlantic, often to reveal neglected treasures.

The Second Violin Concerto by French composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is a somewhat expansive Romantic work of immense warmth, whose gloriously full-blooded opening, especially when as excit­ingly and commandingly played as here by the resplendent, youthful virtuoso Chloë Hanslip, would thrill concert audiences anywhere.

It’s to Hanslip’s credit that—like Nigel Kennedy with Emil Mlynarski—she is unafraid to risk the unfamiliar. She makes a triumphant success of this concerto, not least because her playing is as forceful and muscular as it is assured, and one hears in every entry how well thought-through are her approach and her grasp of the work’s subtle musical nuance.

The opening Allegro offers ten minutes of unrelenting rapture, enriched by a multi-stopped cadenza. The Adagio, which also showcases the Slovak orchestra’s sensitive playing and stylish individual solo lines, could perhaps be more graceful and tender, but admirably avoids the saccharine. Godard’s box-of-tricks finale, like a cheeky Offenbach aria, perfectly suits Hanslip’s stylishness and wit.

Godard’s much earlier Concerto romantique is a drier, somewhat neo-Classical piece that confirms his love of Schumann. Hanslip characterises its four contrasting moods—not least a glowing, even tragic, Adagio and delicate Canzonetta—splendidly. The Scenes poetiques are slight, although charmingly orchestrated. The Naxos sound in the two concertos feels slightly more lucid than in the third piece.

Godard was a productive composer: despite his early death, he also wrote four violin sonatas, which we may hope also to hear some day on the Naxos label.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, April 2008

Born in Paris, Benjamin Godard (1849–1895) managed to write a prodigious amount of music in his rather short lifetime and is best remembered for his operas and salon pieces. The rapidity with which he composed undoubtedly explains the variable quality of his output, but the orchestral selections on this new Naxos release are cream of the crop. They reveal the influences of early-nineteenth-century composers like Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann rather than later ones such as Richard Wagner and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Godard was a child prodigy on the violin and wrote a number of works highlighting that instrument, two of which appear here. The second violin concerto (circa 1893) begins with a lyrically graceful opening allegro that’s followed by a gorgeous adagio. The infectiously bouncy concluding allegro almost sounds like it could have been penned by Sir Arthur Sullivan. There are frequent opportunities throughout the piece for displays of technical prowess by the soloist.

Although the Concerto Romantique for violin and orchestra is an earlier work (1876), it’s a bit more unconventional than the previous one. It’s in four movements, the first of which consists of an energetically spiky theme, alternating with a beautifully laid-back melody. It ends with a recitative-like cadenza in a minor key, setting the mood for the mournful adagio that follows. The work concludes with a delightful canzonetta and a mercurial allegro full of fiddle fireworks. The canzonetta may well sound familiar because it’s become one of Godard’s most popular pieces and is often played by itself.

The concluding selection, Scènes Poétiques (circa 1878), is a series of four symphonic landscapes of great delicacy. The first, “In the Woods,” evokes images of a peaceful, arboreal bower with chirping birdies, while the second, “In the Fields,” paints a picture of wind-swept meadows dotted with summer flowers. There’s an isolated serenity about “On the Mountain” that’s most refreshing. The last section, “In the Village,” is a bustling, bucolic scene with hints of a passing storm, and ends this thoroughly captivating work on a rather folksy note.

Chloë Hanslip is an exceptionally talented young violinist who has made several highly acclaimed recordings, including this one. More than just a virtuoso, her magnificent tone and feel for this music are extraordinary. The Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra of Kosice under British conductor Kirk Trevor provides ideal support in the two concertos and makes a very convincing case for the four scenes.

The sonics are quite good with excellent balance between the soloist and orchestra, a convincing soundstage, and a reverberant venue that adds a warm glow to everything. The only minor complaint would be that the strings are a little bright in some of the more intense passages. (P080428)




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, April 2008

This is an absolutely delightful disc. French composer Benjamin Godard wrote tons of music before his early death (in his mid-40s) in 1895, and his Second Violin Concerto must surely rank high not just in opus number—131—but in musical quality as well. The booklet compares him to Saint-Saëns, and it’s easy to understand why. The craftsmanship, winning melodic gift, sparkling orchestration, and somewhat conservative harmonic stance all point to the French master. Godard’s sound, whether you agree or not with the comparison, is refreshingly un-Germanic, and a world away from the soggy faux-Brahms or faux-Wagner style so prevelant in English and French orchestral music of the period. This concerto has a finale with such a catchy main tune that you won’t believe it isn’t much better known.

The Concerto Romantique, in four movements instead of the usual three, also has a hidden gem in the form of its third-movement Canzonetta, while the Scènes Poétiques is a brief orchestral work that recalls the Chabrier of the Suite Pastorale. Chloë Hanslip plays both concertos with fearless virtuosity and a touch of rough tone now and again (perhaps exaggerated by the close balance), but also with an overall sense of fun that’s wholly winning. In that irresistible finale of the Second Concerto she positively sparkles. The Slovak State Philharmonic, under Kirk Trevor, offers fine accompaniments, and certainly has improved as an ensemble in the years since its first recordings for Naxos. If you like good Romantic violin music, you’ll snap this up without delay.




Duncan Druce
Gramophone, April 2008

Praise for Chloë Hanslip’s confident excursion into unfamiliar territory

Benjamin Godard (1849–95) was a prolific, fluent composer in many genres, but little of his output is familiar today. A string-player (he’d been a pupil of Henri Vieuxtemps), he writes for the violin with great panache, and Chloë Hanslip is in her element, making the most of the showy passagework, enjoying finding the right tone of voice for the different styles of melody—elegiac, sensuous or graceful—and attacking with passion the dramatic recitatives that join the movements of the Concerto romantique. The orchestral writing in both concertos is full of colour, if occasionally rather brash, and is performed here with considerable dash and spirit. There are some delightful solo contributions from oboe, clarinet and viola, in dialogue with the violin, during the little Canzonetta that separates the slow movement and finale of the Concerto romantique. Neither concerto comes near to rivalling Bruch or Tchaikovsky, but Godard is a skilful composer; it’s music that’s formally satisfying, consistently entertaining and sometimes memorable and touching. Hanslip, who’s to be congratulated for taking on such unfamiliar repertoire, seizes on these high-spots—the second theme in Op 131’s first movement, the moment in Op 35’s sombre Adagio when the first turn to the major is made—and finds just the right colour to emphasise Godard’s happy thought.

The Scènes poétiques are really salon music transposed to the concert hall. Kirk Trevor and the orchestra relish the imaginative instrumental colouring, though the performance sounds to me like music learnt in the studio, rather than familiar from many concert outings—I may be wrong.



Roger Nichols
BBC Music Magazine, March 2008

Performance: 
Sound:

In the two concertos, Chlöe Hanslip produces a rich tone for Godard’s operatic, legato lines and she deals impeccably with the flights of virtuosity…




Julian Haylock
Classic FM, March 2008

[Godard’s two violin concertos] combine the effortless melodic fluency of Saint-Saëns with the scorching pyrotechnics of Wieniawski. Chloë Hanslip plays them with total dedication and passion, soaring aloft on a magic carpet of golden legato tone, while fully reveling in the music’s virtuoso dash and sparkle. Bruch and Sarasate fans should definitely give this one a spin.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, March 2008

Mention the name Benjamin Godard to an old time fiddle player and you’ll be met by two words—Jocelyn and Canzonetta. The first is the Berceuse from Jocelyn and a much leaned upon encore staple. And the second is the Canzonetta from the Concerto Romantique, which was frequently extracted form its accustomed place and used as a sweetmeat on disc and in café.

Certainly the Concerto Romantique was quite widely performed in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first couple of decades of the twentieth. But it was never recorded in full—only the Canzonetta. The Second Concerto is certainly not unknown but it is so seldom performed that most people must be making a first acquaintance with it in this performance. The Scènes Poétiques are charming little orchestral pictures written when Godard was thirty.

The Concerto Romantique was written in 1887 eight years before Godard’s early death. I’ve only ever heard two other performances. Aaron Rosand taped it with the Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg and Louis de Froment, now on Vox CDX 5102 in a two disc set. But we’ll reluctantly have to discard Hugh Bean’s traversal on a very obscure LP as it’s really only of academic interest given its unavailability. Rosand and newcomer Chloë Hanslip take rather different vies of the concerto. Rosand is the more thrustful and dashing and is three minutes quicker. He lays greater stress on the Allegro than the modifying moderato in the first movement and tends toward a greater range of expressive devices to keep things ticking over—note his expressive finger position changes for instance and doesn’t slow as much as Hanslip at those comma points in the first movement. He’s also far more forwardly balanced, taking centre-stage, whereas Hanslip is more naturally placed just in front of the orchestra. Problematically however she has been accorded a rather boomy and less than ideally focused recording, made in The House of Arts, Košice.

Still, Hanslip brings her own strong stamp to bear—she is good at the oddly troubled passages in the opening, is warm and certainly communicative in the slow movement, clearly enjoys the rather salon confection that is the Canzonetta with its viola counter-theme and fine sense of caprice. So too in the finale where she treats the material on its own terms, neither inflating it nor skating over it.

The Second Concerto followed five years later. Though the earlier work certainly lacks for little in post-Mendelssohnian virtuosity the Second Concerto announces its credential from the start with a pulsing scalar run for the soloist. Godard though always manages to balance strong technical demands—he’d been a violin prodigy—with ingratiating lyricism. And this is certainly served up here—the tunes have a real charm to them, and an enviable facility as well. If only Godard hadn’t unleashed a far-too-early cadenza in the first movement—always a sign of problems. Hanslip relishes the cantilena of the slow movement, which she plays with adroit lyricism and well distributed tonal resources—excellent dynamics toward the end as well as tonal breadth.

The Scènes Poétiques are picture postcard sweet, pastel shaded and a touch generic. This is Light Music of course but it does afford some excellent opportunities for the wind principals of the Slovak State Philharmonic to shine, especially in the second sketch, Dans les champs. The pick of the four is the beautiful third—Sur la montagne—with its effulgent tune, excellent and evocative horn writing and stirring tune.

Despite the rather unhelpful acoustic this is still an enjoyable disc and it restores the two violin works in particular to wider prominence than has perhaps been the case for a century or so. Godard didn’t run to great profundity and some of his orchestral accompanying figures tend to churn along without doing anything much but he was a melodist of real charm and these three works attest to a virtue too often overlooked.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

Given this brilliant and highly charged performance from the charismatic young British violinist, Chloe Hanslip, you wonder why Benjamin Godard’s concerto has not gained significant popularity. Son of a wealthy Parisian business man, he was a child prodigy who entered the Paris Conservatoire in his early teenage years, but had moved to composition soon after arriving there as a student of Henri Reber. His works were soon winning acclaim in many genres, though today he is internationally known only by the salon piece, Berceuse, taken from his opera, Jocelyn. At the height of his fame, and eight years after being appointed professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Godard died in 1895 at the age of 46. In style he veered between the classicism of Mendelssohn and the frothy influence of Saint-Saens, and though he had deserted the violin as a performer, he wrote for the instrument with a total understanding. There is plenty to interest the virtuoso violinist in the second concerto, but it is the beauty of the central movement with its haunting theme that will remain in your memory. The finale is full of good fun, with the dash to the finishing line that was a requisite at the time. Composed in 1876, the Concerto Romantique is one of his early scores and is harmonically more experimental, the sensuous and sumptuous content owing a debt to his violin mentor, Henri Vieuxtemps. The concerto is particularly distinguished by the Canzonetta which includes one of those melodies that come to a composer once in a lifetime. Godard could not be better served than by Hanslip’s playing. Listen to her musically dance around in the final of the Concerto Romantique to hear a performer deeply in love with the music. She can produce the most exquisite tonal quality, her intonation in the centre of every note, and the acrobatics played with such ease. The disc is completed by the Scenes Poetiques, a work for orchestra that uses four scenes from the French countryside. Short, atmospheric and somewhat predictable in content, they rather foreshadow d’Indy’s pastoral pictures yet to come. Throughout the Slovak State Philharmonic under the British-born conductor, Kirk Trevor, produces playing of real quality and much the same can be said of the fine recorded sound. I love it.






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