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Debussy: 3 Sonatas, String Quartet, Syrinx / Grumiaux, Gendron, Quartetto Italiano

Release Date: 01/28/2010 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 442655   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean FrançaixMaurice GendronIstván HajduArthur Grumiaux,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Unsurpassed performances, combining acute expression and cool poise, with every nuance made exquisite yet inevitable.

I have owned a copy of this record, in its original form, since it appeared 15 years ago and have listened to it countless times. Despite much reviewing of this repertoire both on discs and at concerts during that time, I still find the performances unsurpassed. Both Grumiaux and Gendron, for example, combine acute expression and cool poise in an uncommonly satisfying way. From the other players, too, every nuance is exquisite yet seems inevitable. (One wonders what became of Hajdu, an ideal partner for Grumiaux in the Violin Sonata.) The pizzicatos of the Cello Sonata take us into what is still a
Read more strange world of sound. This is explored further in the work for flute, viola and harp, where the atmosphere of Watteauesque melancholy lingers and where, on a more mundane level, the difficult problem of balance is dealt with sensitively. Syrinx is in fact the earliest of these pieces, but when it is heard after the sonatas it sounds as if this music's entire magical realm has been distilled into a single voice.

-- Gramophone [9/1983, reviewing an LP reissue of the three sonatas and Syrinx, Philips 6503062]


The Debussy seems just a shade less polished in the first movement, but goes as well as you could wish thereafter. The slow movement is most expressively done. I always feel that this is where the Debussy scores over the Ravel, which wanders uncertainly among atmospheric effects whereas the Debussy slow movement gives you solid musical substance of the very highest quality. The viola solo is unusually expressive. Strongly recommended.

-- Gramophone [5/1968, reviewing the original LP release of the String Quartet]


Grumiaux’s elevated intellectual profile is put to exalted use in the Debussy Sonata. He has a quicksilver response to the music’s twists and turns and an alertness to the necessary momentum in the first movement. He is thus forward moving but flexible with a fast vibrato and multi variegated tonal response at once apposite and unostentatious. Listen at 2.15 to about as extravagant a portamento as he ever made on disc. If you want to hear fluent and incisive duo playing listen to Grumiaux and Hajdu in the Intermède where understanding of motivic details and larger structure reigns supreme. So too in the finale; just the right weight of bow pressure from the violinist at 1.40 and the optimum fluidity and fluency from the pianist. A noble account of a masterpiece.

Time is right for a reappraisal of the Gendron-Francaix partnership, in my view every bit as exalted an instrumentalist-composer duo as the better known and more fêted Rostropovich-Britten. I recently reviewed a performance of the Debussy Cello Sonata by a celebrated contemporary duo so narcissistic as to be painful. Here, at a somewhat steadier tempo, but not by much, Gendron and Francaix show how inflection, nuance, tonal variety and cogency bring rewards far outstripping the mere superficialities of the moment. There is such expressive propriety to their playing. In the pizzicato episode of the Serenade’s opening everything is at the service of the music and the gradations of tone in the subsequent development are of sovereign subtlety. And such wit – real wit, not supposed Gallic "wit" – in the slides and phrase endings, such triumphant understanding of the work’s architecture and meaning, such involved nonchalance. In the finale their sense of anticipation and release is second to none. There is never any vulgar overemphasis in tempo relation. Gendron’s tone colours here are infinitely attractive and subtle and the whole performance a triumph of selfless musicality.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International [reviewing the Violin Sonata and Cello Sonata, reissued as part of Eloquence 468306]


There are two recordings of the Debussy and Ravel quartets which should never be absent from the catalogue. The incisiveness and wonderfully rich, open tone of the Pro Arte Quartet’s pioneering accounts from 1933 are stunning. They have never been surpassed, but, for those who cannot stomach crackles, the Quartetto Italiano is its equal. The opening of Debussy’s quartet grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck, and yet this is playing of the utmost refinement which avoids histrionics. The scherzo is full of vim and vigour, while finding moments of smooth relaxation, and the slow movement exudes velveteen rapture.

The recording sounds excellent, magnificently blending warmth and clarity to ensure that none of the gossamer-like details are lost, while grittier episodes never become harsh.

-- Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine [reviewing Philips 420894]
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings in G minor, Op. 10 by Claude Debussy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1893; France 
Date of Recording: 1960s 
Sonata for Cello and Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Jean Françaix (Piano), Maurice Gendron (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Date of Recording: 1960s 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor by Claude Debussy
Performer:  István Hajdu (Piano), Arthur Grumiaux (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; France 
Date of Recording: 1960s 
Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Roger Bourdin (Flute), Annie Challan (Harp), Colette Lequien (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; France 
Date of Recording: 1960s 
Syrinx by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Roger Bourdin (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913 pub 1927; France 
Date of Recording: 1960s 

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