Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Cello Sonata in D minor (1915) [11:58]
Violin Sonata in G minor (1916-17) [12:51]
Première rhapsodie for Clarinet (1909-10) [7:29]
Syrinx (1913) [2:19]
Suite bergamasque (1890-1905) [17:44]
Préludes, Book II: La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (1912-13) [4:26]
André Lévy (cello) and Geneviève Joy (piano)
Marie-Claude Theuveny (violin) and Franck Theuveny (piano)
Jacques Lancelot (clarinet) and Robert Veyron-Lacroix (piano)
Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute)
Marie-Thérèse Fourneau (piano)
rec. 1953-57, Paris
This all-Debussy disc has been forged from Ducretet-Thomson, Pacific and Bam LPs of the 1953-57 period. They have been well chosen, too, given that the string sonatas are in less well-known performances. Elsewhere there is the young Jean-Pierre Rampal and his clarinettist colleague Jacques Lancelot, and two outstanding pianists in Marie-Thérèse Fourneau and Robert Veyron-Lacroix.
This all adds up to something of a feast for lovers of the more obscure gems from the French chamber music LP catalogue. If you are not put off, and you shouldn’t be, by recordings that are now sixty years old, then investigation will be a worthwhile experience.
You’ll encounter André Lévy and Geneviève Joy in the Cello Sonata. I’ve written about both musicians before, and Lévy in particular is the quintessential chamber player. He had played in Lucien Capet’s trio in the 1920s, a distinguished position indeed, and had enjoyed an important place in French musical life ever since. By the time of this recording he had joined the Trio de France, with violinist Jeanne Gautier and Geneviève Joy numbering the other two members.
Lévy was nearly sixty when he recorded the Sonata in 1953. His tone had always been on the small side, which is not problematic, but it had taken on a slight nasality over the years, and this is audible in the recording. He wasn’t at all a flashy player: on the contrary he was inclined to be reserved, ruminative and somewhat patrician in his playing. There is breadth of phrasing, but not necessarily overt excitement in this performance. In that respect he is no match for the incisive Maurice Maréchal, whose classic 1930 recording set a tough benchmark to follow. Nevertheless Lévy makes the pizzicati in the second movement sound like a banjo rather than the proto-Charles Mingus malarkey that some contemporary cellists inflict on this episode, but Lévy, in truth, doesn’t seem at his best in this movement, and sounds happier in the finale.
Geneviève Joy accompanies adeptly, and she often accompanied the next soloist, Marie-Claude Theuveny, though not here, where the violinist is accompanied by her own brother, the musical orthodontist Franck Theuveny. This is another 1953 recording. The violinist has a facile technique but is a touch prone to slithery phrasing and to slightly over-elastic rubati. The tone itself is quite thin. The duo makes a good impression nonetheless.
Rampal unveils Syrinx, presumably his first recording of it, and Lancelot, joined by Veyron-Lacroix play the Rhapsodie for Clarinet No.1 with considerable distinction - the clarinettist’s lower register is cornet-like in richness. Finally there is the delightful Suite bergamasque played by the sensitive Marie-Thérèse Fourneau at modest tempi.
This is an interesting collection, then. Much of it has been forgotten in the intervening years, which makes its reinstatement here so valuable.
Jonathan Woolf 

Much of this interesting collection has been forgotten in the intervening years, which makes its reinstatement here so valuable.