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Le Trio À Cordes Français: Volume 1 - Mozart
rec. c. 1966-77
DOREMI DHR8091-4 [4 CDs: 296:00]

This 4-CD set is the first in a series devoted to the Trio à Cordes Français, the string trio that flourished for over three decades from 1959. Violinist Gérard Jarry, violist Serge Collot and cellist Michel Tournus founded the group and the personnel remained unchanged until the trio’s demise. Jarry is quite well known to violin fanciers, with his leadership of the Orchestra de Chambre Jean-François Paillard being prominent in his discography, and his solo recordings also much admired. Collot studied with the great Maurice Vieux in Paris. An admired orchestral principal he also held down the viola chair in string quartets, the most well-known being the Parrenin. Tournus was a chamber orchestra player, like his two colleagues, and as Collot was viola principal with the Orchestra de l’Opera National de Paris, so Tournus was its cello principal.

These intersecting talents – they all played in chamber orchestras and were versed in chamber playing with Jarry the most obvious soloist - held them in good stead when they came to perform together. Their recording of the Divertimento K563 offers admirable qualities of refinement without disfiguring sentimentality. They follow confidently in the wake of the 78rpm recording of the Pasquier Trio; crisper and less overtly expressive, perhaps, too. It also shows their perceptive control of vibrato speed and colour and intensity. Everything is adeptly characterised. The Duos for Jarry and Collot are beautifully lucid affairs, balanced and strictly non-competitive. The trio also play the unfinished Allegro in G major, K562e.

In the second disc the trio is joined by Maurice Bourgue for the Oboe Quartet, K370 in which Bourgue reveals his very individual tonal colours and his vivacious phrasing. Georges Pludermacher plays the Piano Quartet in G minor, K478, adeptly marshalling its stormy and refined elements alike. The biggest work in this disc is the Sinfonia Concertante, where Jarry and Collot are joined by the Toulouse Chamber Orchestra and conductor Louis Auriacombe. The conductor points the horn harmonies well and allows his winds due prominence. He’s also good at negotiating the changes of mood in the orchestral fabric; he is a bracing and buoyant accompanist. The slow movement is searchingly phrased by the soloists, and the cadenza here is well taken. Maybe Collot is a touch loose in the finale but overall this is a delightful reading.

Most of the third disc is taken up with Michel Debost’s recordings of the Flute Quartets. Well-known for his stint as flute principal in the Orchestre de Paris, Debost proves as fine a Mozartian as his colleague Bourgue, only here over a wider canvas of four quartets. His phrasing is elegant but always powerfully musical and he invariably vests Menuettos with a real sense of life. The two Fantasies that end the disc are those for string quintet – where the trio is joined by Yvon Caracilly, Bruno Pasquier and Francin Thirion; K608 is especially dramatically conceived.

The final disc is largely given over to the sequence of Six Preludes and Fugues K404a, after JS and WF Bach, to which are added some miscellaneous compositions such as the Adagio and Fugue for string quartet. All add to the variety of the box and exemplify the trim, focused musical instincts of the trio and confrères.

Before the final acclamation, I need to make a few necessary notes of criticism. Nowhere is there any indication where these performances come from; no recording labels, or catalogue numbers or specific years of recording other than the general c. 1966-77 on the back of the box. Reprinting a signed LP jacket gives the clue that the Divertimento K563 was first released on Les Discophiles Français, but this string trio deserves far more discographic backup and I hope they will get it in subsequent volumes.

The transfers are honest affairs and preserve some LP rumble though not to any devastating effect.

Otherwise, this is a most enjoyable survey of this outstanding trio’s work.

Jonathan Woolf

Adagio & Fugue in C minor for Strings, K546
Divertimento in E flat major, K563
Duo for violin and viola in B flat major, K424
Duo for violin & viola in G major, K423
Fantasia in F minor for a mechanical organ, K594
Fantasia in F minor for a mechanical organ, K608
Flute Quartet No. 1 in D major, K285
Flute Quartet No. 2 in G major, K285a
Flute Quartet No. 3 in C major, K285b
Flute Quartet No. 4 in A major, K298
Fugue in G minor, K401
Oboe Quartet in F major, K370
Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K478
Preludes & Fugues (6) for string trio, K404a
Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E flat major, K364
Trio in B flat Sonata - two violins and bass K266 / 271f
Movement for string trio in G major (completed by Franz Beyer, K562e)
Trio (Fuga a 3), K443
Gérard Jarry (violin), Michel Tournus (viola), Serge Collot (cello), Michel Debost (flute), Maurice Bourgue (oboe), Georges Pludermacher (piano), Toulouse Chamber Orchestra/Louis Auriacombe

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