A friend recently lent us a DVD of a violinist whom we knew by name but nothing more. We sat transfixed, watching the film of him playing Sibelius in the mid 1950s. This man has a sound that can slice through your abdomen like the world's finest butterknife; the intensity is heartbreaking, the consistency silky and substantial from foreground to background, the integrity total. We read the booklet and first discovered he was born in 1933 - a moment of excitement realising that he could, should, still be alive - until a paragraph later came the shock that he committed suicide at the age of 49.
Little clue is given to his character, his motivation, his problems. All that remains is the testimony of his musicianship. I sent off at once for a set in the EMI 'Les introuvables' series (EMI being EMI, you have to get it from France, but that's easy with amazon.fr). It arrived yesterday, including two different recordings of the Faure A major sonata made a few years apart - the first as tender and delicate as a mountain stream, the other smouldering and sparking like a volcano, yet each perfect in its own way - but they are almost upstaged by his account of Faure's Second Sonata in E minor, which is often thought 'difficult' yet which he lights up with visionary luminescence, generous tone and intuitively perfect phrasing. One senses from such white-hot playing that for this person life and music were serious matters - that perhaps his sensitivity and personal standards were too high to allow him to deal with reality.
His name is Christian Ferras.
This is the DVD. This is the CD set.
Meanwhile, Alex Ross has the most eloquent words about Korngold I've seen in a long time here.