The independent designer record label Onyx was launched
this autumn with recordings from renowned performers: soprano
Barbara Bonney, the Borodin String Quartet, pianist Pascal Rogé
and violinist Viktoria Mullova. The notion of starting
a privately funded record label in today’s intensely competitive
and contracting classical music industry would seem at first
sight to have the potential for success of arranging package
tours to post-Sadaam Baghdad. That said, the first Onyx release
that I reviewed was Mullova’s set of five Vivaldi violin concertos
which became one of my ‘Records of the Year’.
present recording is the second release in the ‘Rogé Edition’
following swiftly on the heels his highly acclaimed Debussy
Préludes, (Onyx 4004). This recording marks the tenth
anniversary of Rogé’s chamber music partnership with Kobayashi
and Hasegawa, both renowned in Japan and having toured widely
with Rogé. The timing of this release just about ties in with
the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Ernest Chausson’s
birth, a pure coincidence I’m sure. It’s an event that seems
to have been virtually ignored in 2005.
highly acclaimed Trio was written in the summer of 1914
at his Basque retreat of Saint Jean de Luz, whist the composer
was on holiday with friends. It has been said that it betrays
the looming Great War, but Ravel could not have known the extent
of the horrors that were in store. Musicologist David Ewen described
the score as, “a work reduced to essentials ... a masterpiece
of form and technique in its avoidance of all superfluous details.”
A highly impressed biographer Alexis Roland-Manuel wrote that
it is “at once serious and impassioned, in which each instalment
is clearly outlined in the enhancement of melody.”
Kobayashi and Hasegawa expertly and lovingly lay bare its suggestion
of Spanish themes that hauntingly explore the contrasts of sonorities
between piano and strings. The impressive lengthy opening movement
with its ingenuity of structure and originality of metrical
design is given an interpretation that is dreamy and feminine,
redolent of the tentative beginnings of a heady romance. The
second movement is a scherzo called a pantoum,
after a Malayan poem that calls for two independent thoughts
moving in parallel lines. The three players cultivate a mood
of high excitement that is both energetic and nervy. In the
passacaille the opposing sonorities of the piano and
strings are expertly drawn by Rogé and friends with a consummate
lightness that reminds one of the carefree air of a daydream.
In the impressive final movement, brilliant and quasi-orchestral
in conception, Rogé’s trio bring out the dazzling textures with
precision and splendid understanding.
the Piano Trio of the mature Ravel, that of his predecessor
Chausson is the work of a relative beginner. Chausson composed
his underrated trio, which was his first chamber work, in 1881
after a period of study with Massenet and Franck.
thickly scored and extended opening movement with its abrupt
dynamic changes and increasing intensity is confidently interpreted
with relentless momentum and deep affection. Performed with
vivaciousness and considerable wit the second movement is a
short and delightful, if rather four-square, scherzo.
The third movement marked assez lent rather to the characteristic
elegiac style of the opening movement and is given a sure and
characterful performance. The closing movement opens with deceptive
simplicity and but quickly darkens becoming more complex. Rogé
and friends perform this fascinating movement with a robust
splendour that is ardent and authoritative.
Onyx release proves to be one of the finest available interpretations
of both scores. In the Ravel I would not wish to be without
the 2001 Swiss recording from Renaud and Gautier Capuçon and
Frank Braley on Virgin Classics 545492 2 9, c/w the sonatas
for violin and piano, for violin and cello and for violin and
piano ‘Sonate posthume’. I also admire the Beaux Arts interpretations
on Philips 454 1342-2, c/w String Quartet and Sonata for violin
and piano and also the Florestan Trio on Hyperion CDA 67114,
c/w Fauré Piano Trio, Op. 120 and Debussy Piano Trio. In the
far less recorded Chausson Trio a favourite account from my
collection is from Pascal Devoyon, Philippe Graffin and Gary
Hoffman on Hyperion CDA 67028, c/w Poème, Op 25, Andante
et Allegro for clarinet and piano and Pièce for cello
and piano, Op. 39.
are to be congratulated for this well presented release. The
engineers provide an impressive sound quality and the booklet
notes from the uncredited writer are interesting and informative.
At just over an hour in duration this is not over-generous by
today’s standards and by my estimation could easily have accommodated
another work, for example the Fauré Piano Trio, Op. 120.
Kobayashi and Hasegawa are outstanding advocates for these wonderful
French scores. I offer an enthusiastic recommendation for this
superb Onyx release.
the ONYX Catalogue