This all-Debussy disc has been forged from Ducretet-Thomson,
Pacific and Bam LPs of the 1953-57 period. They have been well
chosen, too, given that the string sonatas are in less well-known
performances. Elsewhere there is the young Jean-Pierre Rampal
and his clarinettist colleague Jacques Lancelot, and two outstanding
pianists in Marie-Thérèse Fourneau and Robert
This all adds up to something of a feast for lovers of the more
obscure gems from the French chamber music LP catalogue. If
you are not put off, and you shouldn’t be, by recordings
that are now sixty years old, then investigation will be a worthwhile
You’ll encounter André Lévy and Geneviève
Joy in the Cello Sonata. I’ve written about both musicians
before, and Lévy in particular is the quintessential
chamber player. He had played in Lucien Capet’s trio in
the 1920s, a distinguished position indeed, and had enjoyed
an important place in French musical life ever since. By the
time of this recording he had joined the Trio de France, with
violinist Jeanne Gautier and Geneviève Joy numbering
the other two members.
Lévy was nearly sixty when he recorded the Sonata in
1953. His tone had always been on the small side, which is not
problematic, but it had taken on a slight nasality over the
years, and this is audible in the recording. He wasn’t
at all a flashy player: on the contrary he was inclined to be
reserved, ruminative and somewhat patrician in his playing.
There is breadth of phrasing, but not necessarily overt excitement
in this performance. In that respect he is no match for the
incisive Maurice Maréchal, whose classic 1930 recording
set a tough benchmark to follow. Nevertheless Lévy makes
the pizzicati in the second movement sound like a banjo rather
than the proto-Charles Mingus malarkey that some contemporary
cellists inflict on this episode, but Lévy, in truth,
doesn’t seem at his best in this movement, and sounds
happier in the finale.
Geneviève Joy accompanies adeptly, and she often accompanied
the next soloist, Marie-Claude Theuveny, though not here, where
the violinist is accompanied by her own brother, the musical
orthodontist Franck Theuveny. This is another 1953 recording.
The violinist has a facile technique but is a touch prone to
slithery phrasing and to slightly over-elastic rubati. The tone
itself is quite thin. The duo makes a good impression nonetheless.
Rampal unveils Syrinx, presumably his first recording
of it, and Lancelot, joined by Veyron-Lacroix play the Rhapsodie
for Clarinet No.1 with considerable distinction - the clarinettist’s
lower register is cornet-like in richness. Finally there is
the delightful Suite bergamasque played by the sensitive
Marie-Thérèse Fourneau at modest tempi.
This is an interesting collection, then. Much of it has been
forgotten in the intervening years, which makes its reinstatement
here so valuable.