BOËLLMANN Piano Trio, Op. 19. Piano Quartet, Op. 101; Two Pieces for Cello and Piano; Two Trios (from Heures mystiques) • Trio Parnassus; 1Gérard Caussé (va) • MDG 303 1755-2 (72:35)
Unlike his idols César Franck, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Gabriel Fauré, who livedRead more long and fruitful lives, the Alsatian composer Léon Boëllmann, who was born in 1862, died very young. Although he left behind him more than 150 works, Boëllmann is nowadays mostly remembered for his Suite Gothique, a work that has had a perennial following among organ aficionados. Given that Boëllmann died much too young, it is very tempting to think about where his music might have eventually ended up had he not succumbed to tuberculosis at age 35. As interesting as that exercise is, the fact is that, at the time of his passing, Boëllmann was already a master composer, and this outstanding new recording provides ample proof of his considerable talents.
Composed in 1890, the Piano Quartet bears a striking resemblance to Franck and Saint-Saëns in its treatment of thematic material and emphasis on linear melodic structures that are slowly developed and constantly handed off between the members of the ensemble. It is true that the writing is not particularly original, but this is nonetheless genial music whose appeal remains largely intact after repeated listenings. I am particularly impressed with the Andante, which after a rather sentimental opening blooms into something quite memorable. Written two years before Boëllmann’s death, the Piano Trio is closer to Fauré’s spirit in its increased use of chromaticism and use of subtle harmonic changes. Here again, Boëllmann’s ability to write catchy tunes is on full display and the result is, I believe, nothing short of enchanting. The remaining works are less ambitious, but are nonetheless enjoyable. (Incidentally, the Andante for piano trio bears an interesting resemblance to the Adagio of Dvo?ák’s penultimate string quartet. A coincidence, I presume.)
Trio Parnassus is one of today’s foremost chamber music ensembles, and they play with their customary mix of elegance, warmth, and virtuosity. It is also nice to see that they are continuing their advocacy on behalf of wrongly neglected composers. In the piano quartet, they are joined by admirable violist Gérard Caussé, who matches the ensemble’s artistry in every respect. I do not recall ever hearing a recording on the MDG label that was less than stellar in the engineering department, and this one is no exception. I enjoyed this recording a great deal, and I suspect that you will too. Perhaps the time is ripe for a comprehensive survey of Boëllmann’s works. Most enthusiastically recommended.
Versets aus Heures Mysiques, Op. 30by Léon Boëllmann Performer:
Yamei Yu (Violin),
Chia Chou (Piano),
Michael Gross (Cello)
Period: Romantic Written: France
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
outstandingAugust 28, 2020By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Despite his German-sounding name, Leon Boellman's professional career was centered in France. This resulted in large part from the decision his family and many other Alsatians made to move to France following the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the absorption of Alsace (the region straddling the French-German border) into the unifying, Prussian-dominated German state. Boellman enjoyed a solid career as an organist and pianist, according to the CD notes. He died in 1984 at the age of only 35. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Boellman's compositions are not widely known today. The Parnassus Trio attempts to attack this situation with a first rate performance of several excellent chamber music works, which appear to date from the 1890's. The program opens with a superb piano trio, which will definitely make a highly positive impression on even the most jaded listener. The Parnassus Trio is then joined by violist virtuoso Gerard Causse' for an equally brilliant piano quartet, and the program ends with several shorter works, pieces for piano and cello and finally 2 short miniatures for piano trio from a larger collection which Boellman called 'Heures mystiques.' I was thoroughly impressed with the character of Boellman's musical insights, as well as the distinguished playing of the Parnassus Trio and Gerard Causse'. MD&G's audio engineering is excellent, as you might expect. A fine disk, which I recommend to chamber music fans."Report Abuse