Fauré • Debussy • Ravel

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy; Faure; Ravel
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré • Debussy • Ravel
WORKS: Piano Trio in D minor
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67114

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The rarity here is the G major Trio which the 18-year-old Debussy composed for Tchaikovsky’s patron Mme von Meck – an agreeable piece of salon music, without a hint of Debussy’s mature style, and unlikely to detain anyone for long. Fauré’s only Trio, on the other hand, is one of his late masterpieces. He was in his late seventies when he wrote it, and it is a work of crystalline clarity and economy of means. That apart, it does not sound like the music of an old man, and its finale – played with real gusto on this new recording – is a remarkably vigorous piece. Clarity is the watchword, too, when it comes to the Florestan Trio’s performance of the well-known Ravel, with the music’s transparency greatly aided by Susan Tomes’s sparing use of the sustaining pedal. Particularly successful from this point of view is the ‘Pantoum’ second movement, where every detail of one of Ravel’s most fascinating and intricate rhythmic experiments can be heard. By comparison, the constant tempo fluctuations in the Beaux Arts Trio’s 1983 recording seriously undermine the music’s unity. Perhaps the sudden fortissimos, both here and in the finale, don’t explode with sufficient force in the Florestan performance, just as – at the opposite end of the spectrum – one might have hoped for a more hushed pianissimo at the start of the slow movement. One day Virgin might be moved to reissue the Nash Ensemble’s fine 1990 recording, which is still (just) my favourite. Meanwhile, this newcomer will do very well.