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  • Chausson: Concert For Violin/ Piano (String Quartet) (Jennifer Pike, Tom Poster, Doric String Quartet) (Chandos: CHAN 10754)
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Chausson: Concert For Violin/ Piano (String Quartet) (Jennifer Pike, Tom Poster, Doric String Quartet) (Chandos: CHAN 10754)


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1. Concert in D major for violin, piano, and string quartet, Op. 21
2. String Quartet in C minor, Op. 35 (completed by Vincent dIndy)

Product Description

Product Description

This is the sixth recording by the Doric String Quartet for Chandos Records, and the discography is going from strength to strength. The disc of Schumann's String Quartets, Op. 41 was 'Recording of the Month' simultaneously in BBC Music and Gramophone, and nominated for a Gramophone Award in the Chamber Music category in 2012.

The Quartet here turns to the French composer Ernest Chausson. The work of this composer is deeply individual, but it does reflect some technical influences of Wagner too, and of César Franck, his other musical hero. In general, Chausson's compositional style bridges the gap between the ripe romanticism of Massenet and Franck, and the more introverted impressionism of Debussy.

The String Quartet in C minor was the last piece on which Chausson would ever work. He had fully scored all but part of the third and last movement when in 1899, at the age of forty-four, he suffered a fatal bicycle accident in fact, he was engaged in writing the last movement on the very day of his accident. Relying on the drafts left behind by the composer, Vincent d'Indy completed the final movement at the request of Chausson's family.

'Never have I had such a success! I can't get over it. Everyone seems to love the Concert.' These are the words that Chausson, clearly elated, wrote in his diary after the first performance, in 1892, of his Concert in D major for violin, piano, and string quartet. The work is a model of cohesion, with strong ideas and melodies of great impact. Indeed, the autograph manuscript is covered with alterations and crossings-out, a sign of the composer's drive towards absolute perfection in this masterpiece of chamber music.

In the Concert, the Doric String Quartet shares the stage with another exclusive Chandos artist, Jennifer Pike, who in 2002, at the age of twelve, notably became the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. She has given performances throughout the UK and abroad and, now aged just twenty-three, is widely regarded as one of the finest violinists in Britain. Tom Poster is internationally recognised as a pianist of outstanding artistry and versatility, equally in demand as a soloist and as a chamber musician across an unusually extensive repertoire.

Review

…this performance makes a renewed case for a unique and hugely involving work…a very fine recording. --IRR, Mar'13

The violinist's interpretation of Brahms's Sonata in G presents the young composer as a hungry outsider in the marriage of Robert and Clara Schumann. Her phrasing beautifully shadowed by pianist Tom Poster, Pike delivers a performance of strident purity perhaps a little too strident for the intimate dialogue of Schumann's A minor Sonata. In Clara Schumann's Three Romances, Pike finally relaxes into the melodic curves without losing bite. It's worth the wait. **** --Independent, 23/03/13

…from disquiet to impassioned pleading via reflectionnand agitation, that marks this out as an especially fine performance. Performance ***** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, April'13

A real front-runner for the Concert, and most convincing of advocates for the more problematic String Quartet. --Gramophone, May'13

…from disquiet to impassioned pleading via reflectionnand agitation, that marks this out as an especially fine performance. Performance ***** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, April'13

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Mastery on multiple fronts 22 Jun. 2013
By Chris C. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc finds Chausson writing in two somewhat different manners. The longer (39 minute) piece here is the Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet of 1889-91. With memorable, long-lined melodies soaring over great sweeping rushes of sound colored by a rich harmonic palette, this piece embodies the essence of late Romanticism. Full of fresh invention and, despite its length, tight construction, this is a piece which, once heard, is likely to become a favorite, even for one who usually prefers orchestral music.

The shorter (28 minute) piece on the disc is Chausson's unfinished (it lacks a finale) C-minor String Quartet of 1899. (While writing the quartet Chausson took a break and went for a bike ride that killed him.) There's plenty of passion left in the 1899 edition of Chausson, but it's been balanced by a kind of musical discourse that requires greater musical mastery. In the Concert short musical motives are used as a unification device throughout the music, but they are laid over harmonies that progress by an independent logic and power. In the quartet, harmonies are more directly constituted by motives moving contrapuntally. The harmonic idiom is more chromatic and adventurous yet more chaste than that heard in the Concert. In short, the quartet doesn't necessarily disclose its best secrets on first hearing. Or second. Marvelous secrets it does contain, though, for them as sticks with it. The Doric String Quartet sound like they have playing this quartet for years.

The main competition to this disc may be a deservedly well-loved Columbia/Sony recording of the Concert by Itzhak Perlman and Jorge Bolet with the Julliard String Quartet. Pike and Poster and the Doric String Quartet are not comparable "brand names," but make no mistake, theirs is no-holds-barred performance, passionately virtuostic yet full of atmosphere and poetry. There's a sense of occasion here. What's more, the performance is recorded in a forward, superbly realistic soundstage that lets each instrument's sound bloom. By comparison, in the Columbia recording, as currently mastered, the dynamic range is narrower, strings sound thinner, sometimes slightly shrill, and the piano lacks immediacy and bite. The potential downside of engineering as good as Chandos's is that every technical flaw in a performance will be exposed. That's fortunately of no concern here. Indeed, in some quiet passages the precision and delicacy of the Doric's ensemble have to be heard to be believed.

For anyone who enjoys late Romantic music and has not yet encountered Chausson's Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, this disc will sweep you off your feet. Even if you already have the Perlman/Bolet/Julliard recording, you might want to consider this disc for its superb performances and recordings of both the String Quartet and the Concert. Highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Straightforward performances of middle-tier French romanticism 10 April 2014
By Michael Schell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Chausson forms a link between the high Frankish romanticism of César Franck and the Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. In this respect he’s comparable to his longer-lived contemporary Fauré, and it’s tempting to speculate how his career might have turned out if he’d lived beyond the age of 44. What we do have from Chausson is more extended and masculine than Fauré, and features more of the rhythmic propulsion that characterizes Franck, along with being of an essentially French sensibility (in contrast to the likes of Wagner, Liszt and so on).

The string quartet exemplifies these traits quite nicely. It was left unfinished at the composer’s untimely demise, so what we hear owes a bit to the editorial work of d’Indy, who completed and prepared the surviving three movements for publication. Chausson is supposed to have also planned a scherzo, which would have been interesting for a man that seemed temperamentally unsuited to writing scherzos.

The quartet’s first movement opens in C minor with a slow introduction that begins identically to Bach’s Art of Fugue and Musical Offering. This introduction is restated in E-flat minor at the start of the development section of the succeeding allegro (well, the succeeding “Modéré” anyway), harkening back to a technique pioneered by Haydn in his late symphonies, and it’s also recalled in the coda back in the home key of C minor. An interesting passage in this first movement is almost a dead ringer for the opening of Debussy’s string quartet, which was written a few years earlier in 1893. In this recording the passage is first heard at 2:55 then at 8:54, and then finally at 12:12.

The second movement begins promisingly with an ascending chromatic scale, but then lapses into a sentimental tune, and continues in a rather bland fashion that’s all too common in 19th century slow movements. It doesn’t help that Doric players rely too much on portamento here, something not called for in the score. The finale is more interesting, featuring much rhythmic vitality: hemiolas and other syncopations, metric shifts between triple and duple time, and frequent tempo changes. There are also unexpected shifts between major and minor modes, and colorful use of pizzicato and variegated accompanying patterns. The first theme group is in 3/8, but with plenty of metric ambiguities. It alternates between A-flat major and F minor and features dotted rhythms on the downbeat like you’d see in a mazurka. The second theme group is in 2/4 and E major, and features a catchy axial theme first heard in sixteenth notes in the first violin. A minute later, the viola restates this theme in triplets, making it even more catchy. A slow passage in 6/4 recalls the opening of the movement and functions as the “development”, then it’s back to 3/8 time and a varied recapitulation of the first theme group. The second theme is recapitulated next, but only its triplet form, and the C major, the tonic of the first movement, rather than the tonic of the finale. The coda continues to work this theme in C major, but spends most of its time in a brisk 5/8 (which too recalls Debussy’s string quartet which has a 15/8 passage in its scherzo). The 6/4 passage is recalled, followed by a final recall of the first theme leading into the conclusion.

The Concert for piano, violin and string quartet, Op. 21, is longer and better known than the Op. 35 quartet. The French word “concert” means both “concert” and “concerto” in English usage, though most translators favor the former for whatever reason. Chausson makes it clear in the score, though, that there’s a solo violin part distinct from the other four string parts, and there’s indeed a double-forte “soloist’s entrance” nearly two minutes in, after the other five instruments have stated the work’s main theme. This theme starts with a distinct three-note motto (D-A-E), which will return elsewhere in a kind of cyclic treatment that was probably inspired by Franck. And indeed whereas the string quartet was redolent of Debussy’s sound world, this earlier composition is more rooted in the older romantic and chromatic sound world of Franck’s chamber and orchestral works.

The solo violin introduces the second theme group in B major at about 5:15, and after a brief elaboration, the ensemble strings join the piano in a recall of the motto theme, serving to launch the development section. A descending violin cadenza accompanied first by piano chords, then by repeated notes in the quartet leads to the recapitulation. Throughout the movement, the solo violin takes on the role of a traditional concerto soloist, while the string quartet takes the orchestra’s stereotypical role. The piano mainly accompanies both the soloist and the quartet, occasionally taking a leading role.

In lieu of a scherzo, the brief second movement is a gentle sicilenne, not far removed from the famous one by Fauré that came a couple years later (was Fauré directly influenced by Chausson here?). Next up is the slow movement, the most interesting of the lot. It starts with a dirge-like melody in the solo violin built from descending half-steps, and is heard over a tonally ambiguous piano accompaniment consisting mainly of chromatic steps in eighth notes. The tonality here is basically F minor, though the chromatic lines center on C. After two minutes, the string quartet answers with some chromatic chords that recall the countermelody in the slow movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. The texture thickens, the tempo quickens, and the ubiquitous chromatic eighth notes in the piano turn to triplets, then dotted rhythms. Above this, the solo violin reenters with a new theme that starts with an ascending fifth. The piano accompaniment eventually moves to arpeggios, then after a climax, the quartet elaborates on their first chordal entrance. Next is another passage for solo violin and piano that essentially recapitulates the first theme, but in E minor rather than F minor. The second theme, with the ascending fifth, does get recalled in the “expected” key of F minor, atop the piano’s chromatic eighth notes. This quickly builds to the main climax of the movement (and the piece) wherein three of the ensemble strings take over the piano’s chromatic lines in double-dotted rhythms while the solo violin and the quartet’s first violin play the opening theme in high octaves. We remain at tutti while the note values lengthen and the volume drops. The piano reclaims its chromatic ostinato until the movement subsides with sustained F minor chords.

After this we need a striking finale, and it starts right up, Très animé, with a syncopated D minor scalar theme in the piano. We spend several bars in minor, and it seems like we might get the sort of tragic fourth movement that Brahms’ dished out in his piano quintet and third piano quartet. But soon we hear a secondary theme in A major, and then the second theme group shifts to 2/4 and is also in major, thus keeping the mood from total immersion in the pathétique. This tension between major and minor continues throughout the movement, but is eventually resolved in favor of a rousing ending in D major that recalls, in 3/4 time, the motto theme from the first movement.

The Doric Quartet’s playing is fine if conventional and occasionally schmaltzy. I was impressed by their control at softer dynamics, as in the string quartet’s slow movement. At any rate there aren’t too many other recorded choices for these compositions, especially the string quartet. On balance I wouldn’t claim that these performances are particularly revelatory, nor do I find Chausson’s music astounding (it usually strikes me as a kind of poor man’s Franck or early Debussy/Ravel). But you might feel otherwise, and these are both bona fide works that are worth a listen or two if you’re enthusiastic about music from this timespace.
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