Notes and Editorial Reviews
Elegant music, flawlessly performed. This is one of the finest recordings that I have encountered in some time.
There must have been some musical microbe in the French water supply from the 1860s through the turn of the century for France to have produced so many fine and original composers. The obvious big shots are Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, and Saint-Saëns. But France kept delivering outstanding composers all the way into the early decades of the twentieth century, and it is rather sad that their music is not more widely known, for it is of the highest quality. The London Concord Ensemble with guest baritone William Dazeley have given us an absolutely delicious hour of chamber music in these finely honed performances.
Gabriel Pierné’s elegant Sonata da Camera opens with a contrapuntal prelude that would have made Sebastian Bach proud. This jauntily tuneful opening is followed by a melancholy sarabande, so beautiful that it transports the listener into a dream-world from which he’d never want to awaken. The spirited finale is delivered with great panache. Daniel Pailthorpe, Bridget MacRae and Julian Milford deliver a flawless performance marked with perfect intonation, balanced ensemble and a virtuosic flair that’s simply infectious.
Charles Martin Loeffler claimed to be a Frenchman, and his claims are oft-repeated in reference material. He was however born near Berlin, but renounced his native land after his father was imprisoned on a trumped up espionage charge. He later moved to the U.S. where he played as concert master for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A darling of Boston society, he often appeared as a concerto soloist and in performances of his own works.
His two Rhapsodies for oboe, viola and piano show Loeffler at his creative best. Sweepingly melodic, it is easy to get lost in these sometimes dreamy, sometimes turbulent works. Emily Pailthorpe and Douglas Paterson are well paired and Julian Milford again delivers a fine foundation for our two single line counterparts. These works are sublime and they are played with great sensitivity and poise.
Loeffler’s Five Songs are settings of poems by Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire and are connected mainly by a nocturnal theme. William Dazeley’s amber baritone is well suited to the music and he makes the wordy French poetry come to life with careful shading and clarity of diction.
Maurice Duruflé was a composer of tremendous gifts, and yet he seldom expressed his creativity, leaving behind a numerically modest output, nearly all of which are masterpieces. This is the first recording of a very early chamber work, and honestly, these ears did not find the music up to the same high standard as the organ works or the nearly perfect Requiem. We get a fine performance nonetheless, and although it is not a masterpiece, the Prelude, Recitative and Variations are a pleasant enough listen.
This is one of the most engaging recordings I have come across this year, and the Pierné sonata and the Loeffler Rhapsody are well worth the price of admission. The London Concord members are first rate throughout. There is really next to nothing at fault in any of the performances. This is most certainly one of the finest recordings to pass across my desk this year.
-- Kevin Sutton, MusicWeb International