MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Violin Sonata (1927)
Tzigane - Rapsodie de Concert (1924)
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)

Violin Sonata (1943)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Violin Sonata (1917)
Tasmin Little, violin
Piers Lane, piano
Recorded in St. Georgeís, Brandon Hill, Bristol, 8-10 May, 1995 and St. Michaelís Highgate, 31 July, 1991 (Tzigane) [DDD]
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 7243 5 758042 [60:43]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS Superbudget


Like Johannes Brahms and Frederic Chopin before him, Maurice Ravel holds the rare distinction of being a composer that left us with few if any substandard works. It would seem as though the man were incapable of producing anything save masterpieces. The two works for violin and piano presented here are shining examples of Ravelís flawless craftsmanship.

Listening to the violin sonata is akin to being in a room in which multiple conversations are happening at once. This is not a dialogue between two musicians rather; it is two separate speeches that although related in topic, do not mesh exactly. That which is of interested to his ear at the moment captures the listenerís attention, and each repeated listening gives the opportunity for a new discovery. The genuine stroke of genius in the work is the brilliant second movement, completely idiomatic as both jazz and concert music. The Tzigane is the offspring of Ravelís intensive study of violin technique via Paganini and of Hungarian Gypsy melodies as performed for him by violinist Jelly díArányi.

Perhaps no composer of his generation has a more immediately recognizable harmonic and rhythmic language than Francis Poulenc. The violin sonata is Poulencís third attempt at the genre, who admittedly uncomfortable writing for solo strings, had destroyed two earlier attempts. Dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca and the violinist Ginette Neveu, the work not only reflects the violence of conflict (specifically the Spanish Civil War) but also the tragedy of loss. When Miss Neveu met her untimely demise in an air crash in 1949, Poulenc extensively revised the piece as a reflection of his grief.

Debussyís sonata was the third in what was to be a set of six sonatas for various instruments. The composer died before the he was able to finish the projected remaining pieces. The structure of the three completed works offer a hint that Debussy was moving into a neo-classical phase. Having avoided the sonata form for most of his mature career, these works show a harmonic simplicity and close attention to melody that is absent from his earlier compositions. There is still present, however, the composerís delight in rich sonority for its own sake.

Tasmin Little and Piers Lane have given us performances that are sheer delights. Littleís clean technique and precise intonation are coupled with the perfect combination of elegance and virtuosity. Piers Lane is a superb partner, and the mutual respect that these musicians show for each otherís playing is evident in the manner in which each player gives, takes and shares the limelight. This is the kind of music that reminds one of a perfect day, and these players deliver it to us like a beautifully prepared meal. One leaves the recital with nothing save satisfaction. Of particular merit is the performance of the Ravel sonata, which captures splendidly the carefree elegance of Paris in the roaring twenties. Littleís execution of Ravelís jazz-influenced effects is dead on. He plays with an ease and spirit that is breath taking. Both musicians have such an effortless breezy manner, making the challenging technical hurdles of these pieces seem like childís play.

EMIís engineers have given us a lively, well-balanced, natural sounding recording. Philip Borg-Wheelerís notes are concise and informative, aptly describing the music and avoiding the tedious blow-by-blow commentary that so bogs down many a booklet essay.

This is a worthy addition to any collection, and one that is sure to give hours of repeated listening enjoyment.

Kevin Sutton

Return to Index

Error processing SSI file