Restoring 1950s vinyl is Forgotten Records’ raison d’être.
They’ve selected astutely, avoiding the more run-of-the-mill
discs that have generated international re-releases over the
years, and focused on the more hard-to-find items. That said,
in the case of this Debussy and Chausson release they run into
competition, in particular in the case of Bridge’s release
devoted to the molten tonalist that was Louis Kaufman, seducer
of a hundred film soundtracks, art lover, connoisseur and author
of an outstanding and beautifully produced autobiography.
Both Bridge (9225) and Pristine Audio (PASC049) have released
this performance of the Chausson Concert. I’ve not heard
the latter, but the Bridge disc was cut at a somewhat higher
level, to mask rumble and the occasional tick and scratch -
and some inherent distortion. The truth is that these Parisian
studios favoured a rather dry sound and this sec quality
is not always beneficial to romantic music. In any case that
Bridge twofer contained a deal of Dvořák so one’s
choice will be influenced largely by repertoire as much as by
Kaufman plays with vibrant intensity, as ever, quivering with
drama and communicative élan. The Sicilienne is delightfully
done, and the Grave full of power and intensity released by
the driving finale. The problems that exist concern the largely
ineradicable one of the violin being forwardly balanced over
Artur Balsam’s piano and the Pascal Quartet. Balsam is
a leonine and hugely accomplished contributor, and the Pascal
are on home ground. This is a work, though, that can lead to
intonational problems and there are some of those, both from
Kaufman (in the heat of battle) and indeed from the quartet.
They don’t particularly worry me, but I have, in the past,
received vigorous missives from listeners outraged that musicians
from the past committed slips when recording, so I think I should
note these lapses, such as they are.
The Pascal takes the honours in the Debussy Quartet, which has
also been transferred, once more unheard by me, on Pristine
Audio (PACM031). From the Capet to the Loewenguth, French quartets
of this period (and earlier) evinced a wondrous variety of ways
to play so central and canonic a work. From the senza vibrato
Capet to the express train intensity of the Bouillon Quartet
- I don’t think I’ve ever heard a faster performance
- there are horses for courses. The Pascal combine the lissom
with the masculine, their weighty pizzicati ring out, and there’s
a valid sense of textual aeration allied to expressive hauteur.
They are full of feeling in the Andantino, metrically
flexible, and their playing is raptly beautiful, phrasally suggestive
and wholly admirable.
It’s good also to revisit Raya Garbousova’s performance
of the Cello Sonata with Balsam. They make an excellent ensemble
and their instincts are just. I admit my own strong admiration
for Maurice Maréchal’s peerless 78 performance
with Robert Casadesus - one of those affairs where you can imagine
it done no other way, but there are other ways. What
lets down this Garbousova traversal is the dryly unsympathetic
acoustic, which doesn’t flatter either musician’s
This intense trio of performances works well together, with
the caveats as noted. I happen also to prefer this transfer
of the Chausson to the Bridge.