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String Quartets Vol 1




Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Hasards, Op.96 (1939) [14:40]
Jean RIVIER (1896-1987)
String Trio (1936) [17:05]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
String Trio, Op.45 (1946) [19:42]
Pasquier Trio; Monique Mercier (piano) (Schmitt)
rec. October 1957 (Rivier and Schoenberg); May 1959 (Schmitt), live Paris broadcasts

French broadcast material from the 1950s continues to provide rich, albeit sometimes specialised pickings for the listener. In this case the focus falls firmly on the Pasquier Trio – Jean, the violinist, Pierre, the violist and Etienne, the cellist – in radio broadcasts culled from two dates. Florent Schmitt’s Hasards, Op.96 was recorded in May 1959 whilst the trios of Jean Rivier and Schoenberg were taped on 30 October 1957. There are also reportorial reasons to be interested in this release given the relative rarity of the works by Schmitt and Rivier, and added impetus given the performers. The Pasquier Trio was then amongst the world’s great string trios, a regular trio unlike some celebrity groups, and it is fortunate, but no more than their due, that they recorded frequently.
Hasards shows Schmitt, nearing 70, keeping up-to-date with matters zestful and rhythmic. The four relatively brief movements show him alert as to questions of bite and characterisation. Dedicated to Guy Ropartz, it’s not a string trio but written for string trio and piano, deftly played here by Monique Mercier. The second movement is sweetly cloying but elevated by witty faster sections, whilst the slow movement - ‘Demi-soupir: Un peu lent’ - is played with sonorous intensity by the quartet of players. Les Six and Milhaud in particular seem to have cast a spell over the finale, where whimsicality is to the fore. That this work was strongly associated with the Pasquiers can be gauged by the fact the Pierre’s son, Bruno – also a violist – recorded it with colleagues on Valois 4679.
Jean Rivier’s String Trio is more obscure still than Schmitt’s Hasards, but it could scarcely have received a more distinguished recording than this. Composed in 1936 it is refined, elegant and with a sustained and quietly melancholic cast to the slow central movement. The playing is remarkably fine throughout; keenly aware of the piercing lyricism that animates the music, equally sure as to the jolting start of the finale and the freewheeling ebullience of much of the writing. The audience applause has been retained and whilst opinion is split on whether this is ever a good idea I’m with the audience. The Schoenberg Trio was performed on the same occasion as the Rivier, and it’s noticeable how the Pasquier Trio marries moments of austerity with paragraphs of compelling tonal breadth and warmth. It’s certainly one of the most communicative and richly toned performances I’ve come across of the work. The end, though, is somewhat abrupt. Has something happened to the tape here?
The tape is otherwise in fine shape and this release, as often from FR without notes, can be confidently acquired either for the repertoire or for the elevated performances or, indeed, both.
Jonathan Woolf