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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Piano Trio in G (1880) [21:18]
La Demoiselle élue - prelude (transcribed for violin and piano by Leon ROQUES) [4:00]
Il pleure dans mon coeur (from Ariettes oubliées) (transcribed for violin and piano by Arthur HARTMANN) [2:46]
Printemps (transcribed for piano trio by Roger BRANGA) [6:16]
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
D'un soir triste [12:25]
D'un matin de printemps (1917) [5:04]
Nocturne (1911) [2:58]
Cortège (1914) [1:30]
D'un vieux jardin (1914) [2:28]
D'un jardin clair (1914) [2:27]
Trio George Sand (Virgine Buscail (violin); Nadine Pierre (cello); Anne-Likse Gastaldi (piano))
rec. 4 and 6 November 2006, la salle Val de l'Islesa Troyes. DDD


Experience Classicsonline

Chamber music is not the first musical form one would think of when the name of Claude Debussy is mentioned. True, there's the early String Quartet, the three late Sonatas and the Rhapsody for clarinet and piano but that's it. It's only in recent years that this Piano Trio has become an occasional visitor to concert programmes. It was written when he was 18 years old, still finding his way, and, more importantly, seeking his own voice which, when he found it and gave it musical expression, would shake the world with the Prélude à l'après midi d'un faune. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. The Prélude is 12 years away and in 1880 Debussy was hired by Tchaikovsky's patroness Nadezhda von Meck to tutor her daughters, and he spent some time, in Russia. Would it be too fanciful to, perhaps, hear a slight Russian influence at work in this Trio? No it wouldn't, but no matter how much Russianness Debussy may have absorbed, this is still very much French music, even if of the generation Debussy was so soon to leave behind. Like the trifles from La Demoiselle élue and Ariettes oubliées, it's a pleasant piece which fills in 20 minutes without doing anything too interesting. I would happily have done without the arrangements, Printemps included, because they are the work of others and really aren't that interesting. 

What makes this disk so important is the handful of pieces by Lili Boulanger. Sister of the famous teacher Nadia, herself a composer but never one to come anywhere near the genius of her younger sibling, Lili lived a short life filled with music. She was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome and whilst in Rome her music radicalised and became more severe and personal. In a few short years she progressed from Conservatoire fodder with the cantata Faust et Hélène (1912), which won her the Prix de Rome, to the major figure who produced the quite astonishing setting of Psalm 130, Du fond de l'abime (1914/1917) for soloists, chorus and orchestra, not to mention the song cycle Clairieres dans le Ciel and several chamber pieces. 

D'un soir triste is a trio of deep seriousness, impressionist to some extent, but entirely herself, written in her final months, is as fine a piece as Lili ever wrote. It is indeed a sad night but not one filled with tragedy – more like resignation at what must be. This is an elegy of great seriousness and it is very beautiful and constantly questing; typical Lili Boulanger. As if to show the opposite side of the Boulanger coin, at the same time as she wrote D'un soir triste she wrote the light hearted D'un matin de printemps, a dramatic scherzo for trio, and as exciting a work as you could want. The Nocturne and Cortège are both described as being for either violin or flute with piano, but surely this is purely for financial reasons for both pieces suit the stringed instrument so much better than the wind. The Nocturne is sweetly lyrical and contains a very brief quote from Debussy's famous Prélude, and the Cortège is a fun, dance-like, piece. The solo piano works, D'un vieux jardin and D'un jardin clair, compliment each other perfectly. Again impressionistic, but with a simpler language than the other works, they transcend their background and aim for a finer pedigree. 

This is a must for the still far too rare appearances of the music of Lili Boulanger on disk. Fine performances, good notes, excellent sound, very attractive packaging, all go to make this an issue to cherish.

Bob Briggs


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