> Maurice Ravel - Sonates & Trio [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Trio. Sonata for Violin and Piano. Sonata for Violin and Cello. Sonata for Violin and Piano, 'Sonata posthume'.
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Gautier Capuçon (cello); Frank Braley (piano).
Recorded in Studio Tibor Varga, Switzerland, on 9th-11th April 2001 [DDD]
VIRGIN CLASSICS VC5 45492-2 [76'55]


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Having some of Ravel's major and most inspired chamber music on one disc played by such a winning combination of youth and musical insight is a treat indeed. Add to this Virgin Classics' spacious yet forward-placed and well-balanced recording and the result is a recording to cherish.

All three protagonists on this record are young, and a sense of vitality and freshness pervades the entire experience. If pushed, I would highlight the pianist, Frank Braley, who seems to have myriad tonal resources at his disposal; but that would be to underplay the achievement of the Capuçon brothers (and that would never do!).

Ravel's Piano Trio of 1914 receives a magical reading. The second movement exudes a Spring-like freshness, its rhythms infectious and a joy to listen to; the third movement is broad and tender, while the Capuçons and Braley bring out the 'orientalisme' of the finale. They also succeed in the none too easy task of conveying Romantic ecstasy without going hopelessly over the top.

Renaud Capuçon impressed many people with his disc of French Works for Violin and Orchestra (Virgin Classics VC5 45482-2). He gets his chance to shine in the Violin Sonata in G, a piece premiered in 1927 by Georges Enescu. Enescu reportedly took a dislike to the work. It is difficult to see why, especially in such a persuasive performance as the present one. The players demonstrate great attentiveness to the text in tandem with exemplary control of their instruments: listen to Capuçon's beautifully held high notes, for example. Predictably, perhaps, the 'Blues' movement is a great success. This is young person's music, and this performance shows a great amount of wit.

The Sonata for Violin and Cello has never been one of Ravel's more popular works. This performance will make you ask why this is so. The Capuçons ensure that the interplay of lines remains ever-fascinating. The technical difficulties of the second movement ('Tres vif’) pose no problems to either player: if anything, the performance simply grows in stature as it progresses. The finale is marked 'Avec entrain' (with spirit), and this it has in abundance.

The posthumously-published Violin Sonata dates from 1897, but did not appear in print until 1975. It is a delicate piece, and a daring way to end the disc (it closes hanging in the air, like so many of Ravel's perfumed statements). The recording balance throughout this issue is well-nigh ideal.

A very, very special disc indeed.

Colin Clarke

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