Ernest Chausson’s death in 1899 in a bicycle accident robbed French music of a major talent. Almost his entire orchestral output fits on this extremely fine CD. Yan Pascal Tortelier’s performance of the richly romantic Symphony is the best since Munch’s Boston Symphony recording. Like Munch, Tortelier knows how to keep the music moving along–he’s only an insignificant two minutes slower than Munch for the whole work–without overindulging the more luscious moments, which in Chausson’s opulent setting really do take care of themselves. Even better, rather than some overplayed encore piece by another composer, the symphony is coupled with two very attractive, rarely heard tone poems and two charming orchestral excerpts from the composer’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The orchestra plays with conviction, Chandos’ sonics are gorgeous, and if you don’t buy this disc, you’re missing out on some marvelous stuff.
An attractive and intelligently annotated set, devoted to Fauré’s chamber music with piano; the sole drawback concerns generally astringent sound quality in these 1969/70 recordings. Pianist Jean Hubeau features in all but one of these performances. An uncommonly perceptive, adroit, and lucidly compelling artist, his readings of the large-scale piano quintets, Opp. 89 and 115, are superb. He is partnered by the Quatuor Via Nova, who contribute their own serenely idiomatic account of Fauré’s three-movement string quartet, Op. 121. Hubeau’s impressively understated pianism adds distinction to refined performances of the piano quartets, Opp. 15 and 45, and the particularly fine D minor Trio, Op. 120.
In the 41 - year gap between these two sonatas Fauré, increasingly beset by deafness, withdrew into a more private, recondite world all his own. The Second, in consequence, has never enjoyed the popularity of the First—and in fact was conspicuous by its absence from the CD catalogue until this welcome new release. Collectors may recall that when Lydia Mordkovitch and Gerhard Oppitz recorded the First for Chandos they preferred to couple it with Richard Strauss's early Sonata in E flat. Comparison of the two teams in the A major Sonata, Op. 13, leaves me in no doubt that the newcomers would be my first choice. In saying that, I don't want to underestimate Mordkovitch. But with her fine-spun, silken tone and sensitively tapered phrasing she is far too often overpowered by Oppitz, who in the resonant acoustic of St Luke's Church, Chelsea, emerges not only too loud but also rather too often the victim of his own over-generously used right pedal. The Cologne venue accorded to Mintz and Bronfman is kinder: though anything but timid Bronfman preserves far greater textural clarity, and never allows his piano to outweigh Mintz's violin unless at the composer's own behest.(Gramophone, 1/1988)