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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Jean CRAS (1879-1932)
Piano Quintet (1922) [34.50]
String Quartet (1909) [39.25]
Alain Jacquon (piano)
Quatuor Louvigny
rec 5/8 Sept 2001, Conservatoire Luxembourg
TIMPANI 1C1066 [74.29]
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Timpani have another winner on their hands with this disc. They have already invested heavily in the Breton composer, Jean Cras. They have discs of his songs, piano music and a double of his orchestral music. There are a couple of largely complementary Cras discs from Skarbo so overall this can be counted something of a Cras renaissance which began in 1990 and continues to move forward.

The Quintet was completed on board the destroyer 'Amiral Sénès'. It is in four movements which thrive on ecstatic motion taking the way of Florestan and Eusebius in juxtaposing the intoxication of surging fff excitement with reflection and calm. This is accentuated by the poignant nasal quality of the Louvigny violins. Perhaps unwisely Cras left a programme which portrays the four movements in terms of the vigour of sea air as the voyage begins (a sort of conflation of the start of Bax's Fourth Symphony and the vitality of the chamber music of Vierne, d'Ollonne and Ropartz), the calm of an African evening (potently exotic at 3.25), the lively strangeness of an African city and the proud passion of the homeward voyage with a following wind and the recollection of adventure and strangeness. The proud theme marked ardent et fière is played just so by the accomplished Louvigny. The frequent filigree work (verging on gamelan) and priest-like statement reminded me of two Bax works - Winter Legends and the 1915 Piano Quintet.

The String Quartet is dedicated 'À ma Bretagne'. It is shown as String Quartet No. 1 but there was never a No. 2. It communicates as a highly accomplished essay in string quartet expression but lacks individuality. It is the culmination of his apprenticeship years so you should not look for the qualities of imagination that you find in the Quintet. Like the Quintet there are four movements. The music touches, at quite a few points, the mid and late period quartets of Beethoven. Perhaps this is not surprising when you recall that Duparc gave Cras a small volume of the Beethoven quartets which the young officer took on his sea voyages.

The whole effect is completed by literate and wide-ranging notes from Michel Fleury.

Apart from noting the passion and strong engagement instantly evident from Louvigny and Jacquon I only pause to note that Cras's gravestone in Brest has, under his name, the subscription 'Contre-Amiral et Compositeur'. Whose choice was the sequence of fame?

This is a lovely disc to place alongside the other volumes in the Cras Timpani series and on the same shelf as the Hyperion Vierne/Hahn and the Bonnal on Pierre Verany.

Rob Barnett


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