This is another varied and enjoyable anthology from
ASV’s Platinum series.
The performance of the Rapsodie features the
outstanding British clarinettist, Emma Johnson, here captured relatively
early in her career. Working with Yan Pascal Tortelier, a very fine
exponent of French music, she gives a first class performance of one
of Debussy’s less well-known works. At the start her tone is warm, woody
and seductive but later on, when the pace picks up, she plays with great
agility and with a very appropriate sappy tone quality.
The Danses are more usually heard played by
an orchestra. Here they are played by a fairly small ensemble and it
is most interesting to hear a slimmed-down version. I thought the extra
intimacy was highly appropriate and very satisfying. The Prometheus
Ensemble gives a poised and dedicated account which I found very enjoyable.
The Arabesques are taken from a complete survey
of Debussy’s solo piano music which Gordon Fergus-Thompson made for
the label in the 1980s. He plays with charm and fluency and gives the
music plenty of light and shade. Shura Cherkassky is most commonly associated
with display pieces calling for great virtuosity. His brief contribution
to this anthology, Clair de Lune, reminds us that he was also
capable of delicacy and refinement. His playing here is lovely.
The Sonata for flute, viola and harp is an elusive,
subtle work and the unusual forces required has probably prevented it
from becoming better known. Debussy himself described the work as "terribly
sad". Composed in 1915 it was one of a projected series of six
instrumental sonatas (only the present work and those for cello and
violin were written.) The ensemble is full of possibilities and how
well Debussy exploits the tonal palette available to him. The score
abounds in unusual colours and textures and the players here respond
wholeheartedly. The second of the three movements struck me as being
as refreshing as a glass of Sancerre while the finale is much more bracing
and here finds the players alert and assertive.
The recording of Debussy’s only String Quartet originally
appeared in a coupling with the Lindsays’ distinguished account of the
Ravel Quartet (reissued on a companion disc in this series.). Debussy’s
Quartet is a relatively early work, pre-dating Pelléas
and the Prélude à l’Après-midi. Debussy
was still searching for his distinctive voice when he wrote it in 1893
but his mature style is very nearly there.
The Lindsays are passionate advocates of the work.
They give quite a robust account of the first movement, reminding us
that Debussy’s music was by no means all languor and pastel shades;
there’s plenty of sinew and the Lindsays exploit that facet to the full.
They articulate the puckish scherzo very well and strike just the right
note of subdued ecstasy in the third movement. The dramatic finale is
positively projected. This is a direct but far from unsubtle account
of the quartet. There is plenty of committed playing here. A distinguished
performance such as this commands attentive listening
This is a fine and enjoyable collection of performances,
all featuring excellent, intelligent playing and all given first class
recorded sound. The notes, though brief, are better than some I have
seen in this series. A most recommendable anthology.