Debussy: Chamber music - Boston Symphony Chamber Players
PentaTone RQR PTC 5186 226
Classical - Chamber
Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Sonata for Cello and Piano; Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp; Syrinx for flute solo
Joseph Silverstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Jules Eskin, Doriot Anthony Dwyer, Burton Fine, Ann Hobson
Boston Symphony Chamber Players
How fortunate that, with modern technology, the most subtle of nuances in a performance can be successfully captured in a recording. The music of the great French master Debussy - who revolutionised and pushed the boundaries of tonal harmony, as well as discovered new sound and expressive possibilities for musical instruments - is reproduced in this high resolution quality recording like never before.
The three chamber music works represented here were all written in the last three years of Debussy’s life and are a fusion of the styles he used to adopt throughout his composing career.The cavalier and Moorish flavour of the Cello-Piano Sonata, the subtly seductive Violin-Piano Sonata and the beautifully transparent Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp are masterfully performed by members of the legendary Boston Symphony Orchestra, with the great Michael Tilson Thomas at the piano. As an added bonus, we have the mystical Syrinx for solo flute which completes this beautiful album.
This release in PENTATONE’s REMASTERED CLASSICS makes an invaluable addition to the series.
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Review by Graham Williams - November 30, 2015
PENTATONE's revelatory series of Remastered Classics from the 1970s have breathed a new life into many superb recordings from that era, often with spectacular results, thanks to the care with which the original 4.0 channel tapes have been transferred to multi-channel SACD. This disc of Debussy late chamber works from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue is such an example, and whether assessed on artistic or sonic criteria is outstanding.
Debussy composed these three instrumental sonatas between 1915 and 1917. They were planned to be part of a group of six diverse compositions. The other three sonatas were intended for the unusual combinations oboe, horn, and harpsichord (no.4), trumpet, bassoon, and clarinet (no.5) while the sixth was to bring all the instruments together. Sadly Debussy's depression and torment over the war in France and his battle with the cancer that was to end his life resulted in the completion of just the three works enshrined on this treasurable SACD. They represent what the composer described as a return to "pure music" and are characterised by lyricism and subtle understatement, inspired by the grace, clarity and wit of the French baroque composers Couperin and Rameau whom Debussy admired.
The five members of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players heard on this recording come from an orchestra with a very strong French tradition instilled in the players by such conductors as Pierre Monteux and Charles Munch. This is immediately apparent from the elegance and clarity of Joseph Silverstein's account of the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1917) in which he is partnered by Michael Tilson Thomas whose sensitive and subtly nuanced playing is a marvellous foil to the fluency and warmth of the violinist. MTT also excels in the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915) where he brilliantly matches the warm toned cello of Jules Eskin. For the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp (1915) the personnel changes to flautist Doriot Anthony Dwyer – the Boston Symphony Orchestra's principal flute for 38 years – and two of her equally distinguished and long-serving orchestral colleagues, Burton Fine, viola, and Ann Hobson, harp, who together deliver an immaculate account of this piece.
The disc ends with an exquisite account by Doriot Anthony Dwyer of Debussy's brief but haunting Syrinx for Flute Solo of 1913 entirely free from the breathiness of some performances on disc.
There is a marvellous intimacy to all these performances and, in spite of their being recorded in the voluminous acoustic of Symphony Hall, Boston, the delicate sonorities are beautifully reproduced. The engineer here was the legendary Günter Hermanns who has placed the microphones with unerring skill in such a way as to maintain the fragile delicacy of the music whilst at the same time capturing just the right amount of the hall's fabled ambience on the realistic sounding 4.0 multi-channel recording.
This very special and most welcome release is enthusiastically recommended.
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