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Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Concert for violin, piano and string quartet Op.21 (1891) *
Jean Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)

Sonata Op.9 No.3
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Violin Sonata (1917)
The Weiss Duo - Sidney Weiss (violin) and Jeanne Weiss (piano) with Coup d’Archet Quartet (Armen Anassian and Marina Munukian (violins) Andrew Picken (viola) Richard Naill (cello))*
Recorded at Little Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, June 2004 (Chausson) and at Kimball Hall in Chicago, live, in 1969 (remainder)

Crystal continues its commitment to the Weiss Duo by coupling two sonatas from a live 1969 recital with a new recording of the Chausson Concert. The Leclair is an attractive reading with an opening slow movement (actually marked un poco andante) that doesn’t sound too slow and a witty Allegro. Sidney Weiss reserves his greatest reserves of tone colour and weight for the Largo, with plenty of shading, and though the Tambourin finale sounds a mite staid this is still a welcome reading. On the same bill that evening in 1969 was the Debussy Sonata. What was noticeable in the Leclair becomes unavoidable in the Debussy, The acoustic is resonant and it also manages to impart a rather metallic edge to the violinist’s tone. He and Jeanne Weiss are warmly expressive in the first movement but as the sonata develops things beyond their control tend to mitigate pleasure. The recording level is too loud and there’s a lack of quiet playing, probably as a consequence; there’s also some tape rumble and certainly in the second movement pre-echo. As a result the performance comes over as rather unsubtle and over-projected; dynamic subtleties are ironed out and it’s difficult to tell how much is the duo’s responsibility and how much (a considerable amount I suspect) is down to the unhelpful recording.

The companion Chausson in this all-French programme was recorded in 2004. The recording acoustic tends to be slightly too cavernous and it can occasionally blunt the focus of the piano. Nevertheless from the start we can feel that there is a certain Brahmsian cast to this traversal, heavy chording without too much, in the first movement at least, of a commensurate lightness. In the intervening years Weiss’s tone has, inevitably, thinned somewhat though he’s still capable of some truly evocative phrasing. Though their first movement isn’t quick (they take a good 14.28) the Sicilienne is fleetly phrased; it depends I suppose how one interprets the pas vite indication. In their classic recording with quartet Cortot and Thibaud took 4.20 for the Sicilienne and the whole nature of the music is changed as a result, being lighter and more elfin. In the main then this Weiss-led performance is pretty solid and meaty.

It’s always pleasurable to encounter these two experienced chamber players and in spite of some clear drawbacks this disc will still appeal to their many admirers. Others will perhaps need to sample first.

Jonathan Woolf

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