Piano Quartet in A, Op.30.
Piano Quartet in B flat Op 41.
Touchwood Piano Quartet.
ASV CD QS 6241 (DDD)
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The performances are exquisite, technically secure, stylistically correct,
very warm and mellow. There is a compelling innocence and open-air feel about
The recording and balance is also exemplary. The usual problem of Piano Quartets
is to avoid their being concertoes. The engineers at the Banif centre in
Canada have excelled themselves.
Duncan Reid's notes are also very good. His insight into Chausson's childhood
is very perceptive.
As for the music, it is very pleasant, a trifle long-winded in the Chausson
and, to quote David Drew's classic remark it is melodic nullity. There is
nothing that really grips you although the music is therapeutic, relaxing
and calming. There is also the operatic sensuality in the Chausson; the music
is often very tender and slightly erotic. It is a young man's music although
he was 42 when he wrote it and already married. Two years later he was killed
in a bicycle accident.
It was the peaceful countryside near Annechy in the summer that inspired
this work. Once can visualise young adults on picnics with sunshine in their
faces. Moustached young men admiring girls in long white dresses and straw
hats and the droning of bees. It is all here in the Chausson. But what is
noteable is that Chausson does not have the compositional weaknesses of his
teacher, Franck, who, when he did not know what to do next, which was often
the case, repeated the main theme yet again!
Astute listeners will see how Debussy was influenced by Chausson.
The Saint-Saëns is more classical in design and was written with the
violinist Sarasate as well as himself in mind hence the cadenzas for the
violin and the piano. Structurally, it is the better work but it is less
original being heavily influenced by two great composers that fascinated
him... Mendlessohn and Liszt. Saint-Saëns work is not like the hot lazy
sexy summer of Chausson's glowing piece but a moody day of calm one moment
and stormy clouds the next. The Saint-Saëns of the Danse Macabre
is not far away. For me, the work is
let down by the double fugue in the finale which classical formula
is at odds with the quasi-nationalistic and romantic style Saint-Saëns
is working in. The finale of the Chausson is far better since it maintains
its stylistic confidence although, occasionally, it loses its way.
But the musical detectives among you should listen with care to the final
minutes of the Chausson. Does the calm rippling stream portend the change
of season? Or is there something else to consider'? I think so.
Beautifully played and recorded.