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Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Concert for violin, piano and string quartet in D, Op.21 (1889-91) [39.49]
String Quartet in C minor, Op.35 (1897-9) [28.12]
Jennifer Pike (violin), Tom Poster (piano)
Doric String Quartet
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 4-6 July 2012
CHANDOS CHAN 10754 [68.14] 

Chausson was one of the greatest of the generation of French composers who studied with, and were influenced by, César Franck. During his relatively short life he produced a number of masterpieces which have tended to be neglected - his Symphony, his opera Le roi Arthus (one of the greatest works written on the subject) and above all his stupendously lush and romantic Poème de l’amour et de la mer, which is still only generally known for its concluding song Le temps du lilas. Among these masterpieces must also be included his Concert for violin, piano and string quartet.
 
Concert, mind you, not Concerto, as Gerald Larner quite correctly points out in his informative booklet notes. This is a piece for chamber ensemble, not a concerto in the classical sense which pits a soloist or soloists against an accompanying body. The piano and violin solo parts, which differ from the string quartet only by the relatively large amount of thematic material which is given to the players, are first among equals and not grandstanding virtuosi. A number of recordings make the mistake of highlighting the two solo players - I have one which features Itzhak Perlman and Jorge Bolet, no less, with the Juilliard Quartet - and although this can indeed be very effective, the work sounds more unified if the two ‘soloists’ are properly integrated with the other players. As indeed they are here, with Jennifer Pike and Tom Poster - who both play superlatively - beautifully merging into the texture of the whole.
 
The String Quartet shows Chausson beginning to move away from the Franckian models into what Gerald Larner calls a more ‘classical’ style but one which to my ears also shows the influence of impressionism. There is indeed what sounds like a close quotation from the opening of Debussy’s String Quartet (written six years earlier) at the end of the first movement (track 1, 12.13). The second movement opens with a chromatic rising theme which not only hearkens back to Wagner’s Tristan but also echoes Chausson’s own Symphony. The players of the Doric Quartet produce a properly Debussian sound, not too beefy and not too saturated, which suits the music perfectly.
 
Chausson was just a few bars short of completing the third movement of this quartet when he went out for a ride on his bicycle. He fell off and in some manner sustained injuries which caused his death. The movement was completed by Vincent d’Indy, his friend and fellow-pupil of Franck, but the anticipated finale was never written and apparently no sketches for the uncompleted material exist. D’Indy merely adds some concluding chords which match well with their context, although Gerald Larner gives his opinion that Chausson himself would have concluded the movement with less sense of finality.
 
The recorded sound is warm and resonant without being overwhelmingly lush. Amazingly enough there appear to be no other discs in the catalogue which make the obvious coupling of the Concert and the String Quartet. But even if there were, this CD would be an immediate choice for these works. Anybody who is at all interested in late romantic chamber music should snap it up without delay.
 
By the way the design of the CD packaging with its cover illustration of Monet’s Morning on the Seine is a thing of beauty in its own right.
 
Paul Corfield Godfrey 


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