Yes, thoroughly ‘agréable’
listening. April Clayton is an accomplished
instrumentalist. She encounters no problems
in negotiating the trickier passages
in this mostly French programme and,
even more important, displays a sure-footed
stylishness entirely appropriate to
the music. She is helped by two adroit
pianists and the whole benefits from
a recorded quality which is clear without
being at all dry.
Philip Lasser is
a new name to me. He teaches at the
Juilliard and studied in Paris and at
Harvard and Columbia Universities. He
is, I presume, an American. But this
Sonata was, according to the booklet
notes, first written in Paris in 1986,
"in a sunny studio apartment on
the Left Bank" and premièred
at the Floral Parc in Vincennes. The
work went through various vicissitudes
– including the loss of the original
score – before reaching the state in
which it is here recorded. The Sonata
is thoroughly French in idiom and conception;
Lasser tells us that he admires Poulenc,
but we might have guessed that for ourselves,
especially on the evidence of the third
of its three movements. The central
largo sets up some beautiful interplay
between flute and piano, dream-like
and yet clearly and firmly structured.
On this evidence, Lasser’s is a name
worth looking out for in future.
Sonatine was a test-piece written for
the Paris Conservatoire and is more
reminiscent of, say, Ravel or even Roussel,
than of the music of the fully mature
Dutilleux. It transcends its purposes
as a test-piece and is a subtly argued
construction in a single movement. Clayton
and Song do justice to its subtleties,
though I have heard versions which make
slightly more of the contrasts in dynamics.
In the four movements
of Jean Françaix’s Sonata,
written in the last year of the composer’s
life, the emphasis is on charm and wit
– was it ever very different with Françaix?
– but the resulting music is not lightweight,
for all its resolute avoidance of the
solemn. Françaix has a gift for
doing the slightly unpredictable thing
within a secure, even conventional,
framework. The Sonata is played with
evident affection and understanding.
The final movement makes real technical
demands on the flautist and Clayton
is up to them.
Pierre Sancan is
best known as a pianist and as an important
teacher of the piano, though his compositions
seem recently to be receiving more attention;
recent recordings include his Piano
Concerto with Jean-Philippe Collard
as soloist. The Sonatine has
already been recorded a number of times
- by Patrick Gallois (review
), Emmanuel Palud, Jeffrey Khaner
and Andrew Anson (review)
. It is bristling with difficulties
for both players, though it is much
more than a mere display piece. This
is subtle and evocative music and it
receives a loving performance here..
is, again technically demanding
music; here the virtuosity seems more
nearly to be an end in itself, though
the more delicate passages are charming.
It was the contest piece for the Paris
Conservatoire in 1942, just as Dutilleux’s
Sonatine was the piece for 1943 and
Sancan’s Sonatine that for 1946 – a
unifying thread to the programme which
is not mentioned in April Clayton’s
generally very helpful booklet notes.
A well-chosen, well-played
programme of music descended, as it
were, from Ravel and Debussy. Recommended.