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Philippe Gaubert: Violon, Violoncelle & Piano

Release Date: 04/29/2014 
Label:  Timpani   Catalog #: 11203   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Jean-Marc Phillips-VarjabédianMarie-Josčphe JudeHenri Demarquette
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GAUBERT Violin Sonata. Trois Pièces for Cello and Piano. Quatre Esquisses for Violin and Piano. Lamento for Cello and Piano. Trois Aquarelles for Violin, Cello, and Piano Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (vn); Henri Demarquette (vc); Marie-Josèphe Jude (pn) TIMPANI 1203 (64:34) Read more

Having issued virtually all of Philippe Gaubert’s orchestral music on three previous CDs, along with one disc of the composer’s mélodies , Timpani is now turning its welcome attentions to the genre to which the composer primarily devoted his compositional labors, chamber music. A goodly share of that consists, of course, of music for flute, Gaubert’s own instrument, and there are at least two complete sets of these works in print (on Chandos with Susan Milan and on Naxos with Fenwick Smith). Here, however, Timpani has intelligently and thankfully chosen to begin with a disc of chamber works for instruments other than flute; while they are not so advertised, so far as I can tell the first three works listed in the headnote above are receiving their premiere recordings here.

Elsewhere in this issue I review a disc of chamber music by Gaubert’s much longer lived contemporary, Jean-Guy Ropartz, and a comparison of the two composer’s works is, I think, intriguing. Both were musical heirs of César Franck and show a broad stylistic kinship to Gabriel Fauré. Harmonically, Gaubert was more open to contemporary developments, as the increasing influence on his work of Debussy shows, whereas Ropartz gives only a slight and occasional tip of the chapeau to the Impressionists. Melodically, however, Ropartz is the more complex composer, given to penning long-limbed melodic lines that undergo continual transformation, whereas Gaubert writes much more straightforward and immediately appealing tunes. I would not say that one composer is necessarily more sophisticated than the other; rather, they express that sophistication by different means.

The most substantial piece on this disc, the Violin Sonata in A (the same key, of course, as Franck’s celebrated sonata), is a major discovery that by rights should find a place in the standard repertoire. Written in 1915, it was not published until 1920 due to the turmoil of the First World War. Cast in four movements ( Allegro—Très lent—Très vif Scherzando—Allegro ma non troppo ) and lasting slightly more than 20 minutes, it is a work of unalloyed sunniness and high spirits that belies the wartime circumstances of its creation, opening with a sweeping, arrestingly memorable theme that sets the tone for all that is to follow. While the sonata makes no pretense at exploring darker passions or deeper metaphysics, it has no need to do so; music of such delightful beauty and high spirits is amply its own justification.

For the most part, the other works on this disc are suites of shorter, occasional pieces with descriptive character titles. Composed in1926 but published in 1928, the Trois Pièces (Three Pieces)—titled “Lied,” “Menuet,” and “Cortège”—are all stately, elegant dances. The Quatre Esquisses (Four Sketches) date from about the same period. As indicated by the titles of two of the four members— Extase (Ecstasy); Voiles blanches, au crépuscule (White sails, at twilight); Une chasse … au loin (A hunt … in the distance); and Là bas, très loin, sur la mer (Over there, far away, on the sea)—Gaubert also shared with Debussy a fascination with the sea. The Lamento , a youthful work dating from 1911, clearly takes Fauré’s famous Elégie as its model, though it is more reticent in rhetoric and subdued in mood. Finally, the delightful Trois Aquarelles from 1921, while well known from several recordings of the composer’s adaptation for flute, cello, and piano, are here presented in a premiere recording of the composer’s original scoring for piano trio.

While I extend somewhat qualified praise to the instrumentalists on the Ropartz CD, I have virtually no reservations here. Both violinist Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian and cellist Henri Demarquette play with apt sweetness of tone and elegance of phrasing, and pianist Marie-Josèph Jude proves an ideal accompanist at every point. As previously indicated, there is little competition for the contents of this release; only the Lamento has previously appeared, on a 2010 release by the Trio Wiek on the Fuga Libera label. Once again, Timpani provides exemplary recorded sound and detailed booklet notes. My only complaint, which also extends to the Ropartz CD and some other releases, concerns the label’s irritating practice of printing movement timings in a light gold font against background colors that make them almost impossible to see, let alone read. Otherwise, this absolutely delightful disc is warmly recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Sonate for violin & piano by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (Violin), Marie-Josčphe Jude (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 10/2012/10/2013 
Venue:  Vincennes, Cour de Ville 
Length: 22 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Pičces (3), for cello & piano by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Henri Demarquette (Cello), Marie-Josčphe Jude (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 10/2012/10/2013 
Venue:  Vincennes, Cour de Ville 
Length: 8 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Esquisses (4), for violin & piano by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Marie-Josčphe Jude (Piano), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (Violin)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 10/2012/10/2013 
Venue:  Vincennes, Cour de Ville 
Length: 11 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Three Watercolors by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (Violin), Henri Demarquette (Cello), Marie-Josčphe Jude (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; France 
Date of Recording: 10/2012/10/2013 
Venue:  Vincennes, Cour de Ville 
Length: 14 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Lamento, for cello & piano by Philippe Gaubert
Performer:  Marie-Josčphe Jude (Piano), Henri Demarquette (Cello)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 10/2012/10/2013 
Venue:  Vincennes, Cour de Ville 
Length: 7 Minutes 19 Secs. 

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