One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 64 (1915/16) [35:06]
Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Five Préludes for piano from set of 12 Préludes, Op. 36 (1914/15) [18:51]
Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 42 (1917/18) [34:44]
Tamara Atschba (piano), Louise Chisson (violin), Matthias Adenosine (violin), Alexander Znamensky (viola), Christophe Pantillon (cello)
rec. 2014, Ehrensaal der Militärpfarre St. John Nepomuk, Vienna, Austria
GRAMOLA 99040 [88:27]

With this release titled ‘1914’ the French Cultural Institute, Vienna commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in partnership with Gramola. These works from the pens of French composers Charles Koechlin and Louis Vierne were all written during the First World War.

Charles Koechlin, a native of Paris seems to have had a hopeless obsessive personality. He was certainly fixated on the stars of the early Hollywood ‘talkies’ especially Lilian Harvey. He wrote over one hundred pieces for her including L'Album de Lilian. Others included Ginger Rogers (Danses pour Ginger), Jean Harlow (Épitaphe de Jean Harlow), Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

Koechlin wrote his four movement Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 64 in 1915/16. It bears a dedication to his teacher Fauré. It’s an impressionist work that seems impervious to the horrendous events that were happening around him. Like his Suite Légendaire, Op. 54 the Violin Sonata is sometimes subtitled La nuit féërique (The Night of the Fairies). Played impressively by violinist Louise Chisson and pianist Tamara Atschba this appealing score is light in texture. The opening movement Calme is reflective and is tinged with a sense of pining. According to the booklet notes the Scherzo “seeks to lead the listener’s imagination into the vicinity of a myth-enshrouded forest.” The flowing violin line of the Scherzo is engaging and meets the piano part where its raindrop effects are prominent. With the indication Nocturne, grave et féërique (nocturne, serious and magical), the third movement Andante is serious but not especially magical. At over thirteen minutes the substantial Finale, Très modéré is infused with the spirit of folk-song. I don’t find the writing here particularly “cheerful” although the notes writer thinks otherwise. Here the weight and tension of the textures tighten and relax by turns. Throughout I felt an undertow of seriousness and profundity.

Poitiers-born but a Parisian citizen, Louis Vierne was almost blind for most of his life; becoming totally blind in his later years. Vierne’s son Jacques was executed by a German firing squad in 1917 aged only 17 years. Vierne also lost his brother René later in the war.

Vierne wrote his set of Twelve Préludes for solo piano, Op. 36 in 1914/15. The Twelve Préludes are more virtuosic and Romantic in style by comparison with the impressionist music of his older contemporary Debussy. Here soloist Tamara Atschba with unerring sensitivity plays a selection of five Préludes from the Op. 36 set. This music is enjoyable but rather lacking in originality. I could sense various sources of motivation in the Préludes especially Chopin but without the same quality of inspiration. The most memorable is No. 3 Présentiment - dark in mood and agitated in character. Also enjoyable is the short No. 10 Sur une tombe (On a grave) with its beautiful romantic melody so calm and refined.

Vierne wrote his masterpiece, the Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 42, in 1917/18 in memory of his son so tragically killed by the Germans. Incidentally, Nadia Boulanger played the piano for its première in Paris. It’s a marvellous and vital work in three substantial movements: energetic and full of burning intensity. The opening movement marked Poco Lento - Moderato has a lovely brooding melody repeated in turn. The central movement Larghetto sostenuto seems cheerless and isolated at first before developing a turbulence and intensity which felt like being chased in fear of one’s life. Boldly imposing, the emotional Finale: Maestoso - Allegro risoluto is a stormy outpouring of biting pain and suffering.

The resolute performances on this release are compelling and communicate a wide range of often intense emotions. The security of group intonation is resolute with an appealing tone production from each instrument. Pianist Tamara Atschba and first violin Louise Chisson play beautifully and display with real insight. Since its release in 2001 I have often played and enjoyed the fine account of the Vierne Piano Quintet, Op. 42 from Stephen Coombs and Chilingirian Quartet on Hyperion (c/w Hahn Piano Quintet). This new account on Gramola is quite outstanding and I now consider it my first choice recording.

The Gramola engineers have excelled in providing warm clear sound. They splendidly achieve the notoriously difficult balance between piano and strings. At 88:27 this is the longest timing of any single CD I have come across. Both the Koechlin Violin Sonata and Vierne’s masterwork the Piano Quintet are certainly worth getting to know especially in these excellent performances.

Michael Cookson