One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Debussy’s Corner
Claude DEBUSSY (1862 – 1918)

Syrinx (1913)
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (1915)
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b. 1936)

Sonata after Syrinx (1985)
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930 – 1996)

And then I knew ’twas wind (1992)
Benoît MERNIER (b. 1964)

Images (2002)
Trio Medicis (Bernard Pierreuse, flute; Ning Shi, viola; Francette Bartholomée, harp)
Recorded: Fondation Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland, July 2002
CYPRÈS CYP 1637 [63:15]

Debussy’s Syrinx, for all its brevity, is a key work in the modern repertoire for flute, and without it many later works such as, say, Varèse’s Density 21.5 and Jolivet’s Incantations would have been unthinkable. Appropriately enough, it opens the present recital and is immediately followed (almost without a pause) by Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonata after Syrinx for flute, viola and harp. This is the third work that Bennett composed after Debussy’s flute work, the other three being After Syrinx I for oboe and piano (1982), After Syrinx II for solo marimba (1984) and Tango after Syrinx for piano (1985). It thus opens with Debussy’s tune, continues on two Scherzos interspersed with a short cadenza. It ends with a coda musing on the basic material.

Takemitsu’s music is much indebted to Debussy and Messiaen, and has often been described as "updated Debussy", not as a criticism, but rather as a point of reference, since Debussy’s music played such a formative role in Takemitsu’s development. As much else in his music, And then I knew ’twas wind is a predominantly slow-moving study in subtle, refined sound textures unfolding as a dreamy ritual.

Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp is, of course, central here. At the time of its composition, Debussy was severely ill, whereas World War I was still tragically raging. So, Debussy’s planned set of sonatas for various instrumental combinations was to be a reaction to German barbarism, as it was then felt, and an overt homage to his illustrious predecessors, such as Couperin and Rameau. To a certain extent, too, the nostalgic quality of much of the music of the Sonata may be experienced as an exorcism of sorts. I for one consider it his last masterpiece, whatever the respective merits of the Violin Sonata and the Cello Sonata, composed at about the same time.

Benoît Mernier’s Images for flute, viola and harp was commissioned for this recording. It has since been performed in public. I have already been able to review two other Cyprès discs entirely devoted to his music. These clearly show that he is one of the most endearing composers of his generation, and a distinctive voice to be reckoned with. Images is a beautifully-crafted piece of music of substance and refinement. It deserves to become as popular as Debussy’s sonata to which it pays homage without ever slavishly imitating it. The music displays all the characteristics of Mernier’s music-making: clarity of line, instrumental subtlety and refined textures, brilliantly exploiting the sound palette of the instruments in a most imaginative manner, while preserving the expressive strength of the ensemble. This is a really beautiful addition to the repertoire. It could, and I am sure will, become popular.

In short, this is a well planned, superbly played programme that is a pure joy from start to finish and generously repays repeated hearings. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.