> Debussy - Ravel - Fauré [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
String Quartet
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

String Quartet
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Trio Op 120
Tokyo Quartet
The Roth Trio (Fauré)
Recorded 1977 (Debussy, Ravel) 1961 (Fauré)
SONY SBK62413 [71’12]


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The Debussy-Ravel axis is the most famous chamber pairing in the catalogue and it would perhaps be easier to note those quartets that don’t pair them together than those that do. The Tokyo Quartet’s recordings date from August 1977 and are now amazingly a quarter of a century old. Little has dated about the performances even if there is a nagging feeling that they, as with other groups, properly fail to distinguish the characters of each work one from another. The tumbling violin lines in the opening of the movement of the Debussy are finely done; they lean into the notes and bend the rhythm of the second movement with phrasal insouciance; they express delicacy and concentration in the Andantino and in the finale are sonorous – violist Kazuhide Isomura especially so. In the Ravel the continuity of mood is captured with cellist Sadao Harada prominent in the tonal balance, particularly in the Assez vif second movement. They are subtle as well as instrumentally sound.

The novelty is a 1961 performance of the Fauré Piano Trio Op 120 given by the Roth Trio. This was a most impressive trio of Feri Roth, violinist, Joseph Schuster, cellist and André Previn, pianist. They make a more than competent stab, some queasy string moments apart, but can’t convince me that they are themselves convinced by the work. The slow Andantino is dispatched in 8’05 – the commanding but relatively youthful Collard-Dumay-Lodéon trio took 9’36 in their celebrated 1970s recording and that is a sizeable difference of approach and intent especially in a movement that tends to ramble inordinately as it does. As a result I tend to prefer the Roth’s intent but the Frenchmen’s execution. In fact I don’t think existing allegiances are breached by any of the performances on the latest of the Sony Essential Classics.

Jonathan Woolf

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