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Piano Quartet in A,

Piano Quartet in B flat
Op 41.
Touchwood Piano Quartet.
ASV CD QS 6241 (DDD) [67.05]

Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA  Bargain price

The performances are exquisite, technically secure, stylistically correct, very warm and mellow. There is a compelling innocence and open-air feel about them.

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.


David Wright




David Wright



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