1919: Boulanger | Janáček | Elgar | Debussy

The 1910s were a period of extraordinary turbulence and change. Revolutions and war left monarchies and empires fallen and the social order irreversibly altered. The music on this album emerges from various points in that eventful decade, but all of it records vividly a world that was shortly to vanish forever – a world to which the year 1919 was already a coda.

Indeed, the pieces chosen by Benjamin Baker and Daniel Lebhardt for their second Delphian recording also speak from a decade of musical endings. Claude Debussy and Lili Boulanger both died in 1918, two extraordinary careers cut short early; Baker and Lebhardt’s programme includes some of their last works. Edward Elgar lived on for another fifteen years, but wrote little more to match the four major compositions which emerged from his pen in 1918 and 1919.

Leoš Janáček, by contrast, was about to enter an astonishing Indian summer of creativity; his violin sonata stands on the cusp, inspired by Janáček’s hopes that the war might lead to independence for his beloved Czech lands.

" By 1919, two of the named composers were dead and a third was worn out. Only Leos Janacek was firing on all cylinders – indeed, on more cylinders than he ever had before. If 1919 was a benchmark, it is not evident from their lifecycles. However, the year does mark an end-point for the war era and these sonatas exist in that immediate past, with no thought of present or future ... Bringing these disparities to life are two UK-based musicians, the New Zealand violinist Benjamin Baker and the Hungarian pianist Daniel Lebhardt. If they strive a little too hard for conventional beauty in Janacek, their austerity is perfect for Debussy and Elgar, evoking a restrained sympathy for these morbid confessions The playing is marvellously poised, an exemplary concept album aptly adapted to each composer’s circumstances and individuality. Baker and Lebhardt tell four very human stories, each of them flawed. I was on the edge of my seat throughout."

La Scena Musicale

read the full review here

"The works on this intimately recorded album move in wildly differing circles. Elgar’s wistful Romanticism contrasts with the exotic soundworlds of Debussy’s Sonata and Boulanger’s sprightly miniature. Janáček looks to the future with bold colours and spiky rhythms coupled with a sense of unease. Violinist Benjamin Baker and pianist Daniel Lebhardt perform each work with consummate skill and an unalloyed passion"

Release Date: 26 May 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34288
Total playing time: 1:06:48

Recorded on 7-9 June 2022 at Ayriel Studios, Whitby

Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter
Piano: Steinway model D, serial no 550675 (2000)
Piano technician: Aidan Delacey-Simms

Front & back cover photography © Kaupo Kikkas
Design: John Christ
Booklet editor: John Fallas
Session photography: foxbrushfilms.com


Benjamin and Dan perform the opening movement of Janáček’s firey sonata for violin and piano during recording sessions...  

Album Booklet

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