Liberté, Egalité, Sonorité: 100 years of chamber music by French women

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Claude Arrieu,Germaine Tailleferre,Lili Boulanger,Louise Farrenc,Mélanie Bonis,Pauline Viardot-Garcia
LABELS: Ambache
ALBUM TITLE: Liberté, Egalité, Sonorité: 100 years of chamber music by French women
WORKS: Arrieu: Trio d’anches; L Boulanger: Nocturne; Bonis: Scènes de la forêt; Viardot-Garcia: Sonatine in A minor; Farrenc: Cello Sonata in B flat; Tailleferre: Concertino
PERFORMER: Anthony Robb (flute), Jeremy Polmear (oboe), Neyire Ashworth (clarinet), Philip Gibbon (bassoon), Richard Dilley (horn), David Juritz, Richard Milone (violin), Ilona Bondar (viola), Rebecca Knight (cello), Tim Amherst (double bass), Tristan Fry (timpani), Sue Rothstein (harp), Diana Ambache (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Ambache AMB 2606

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Liberty, Equality, Sorority. For today’s women composers the central word of France’s progressive motto might not be a complete and utter absurdity, but much still needs to be done for those from earlier times who were faced with a dismissive establishment fraternity. As with the previous Seven Sisters collection of British composers (reviewed June 2015), Diana Ambache has created a diverse sequence of thoroughly engaging chamber works. This is especially striking in the leap from the clean lines of Louise Farrenc’s 1861 Cello Sonata to the fizzing opening textures of Germaine Tailleferre’s 1952 Concertino for flute, piano and chamber orchestra. Both works are a little out of their time stylistically, but no more so than contemporaneous ones by Saint-Saëns or Poulenc, and the Farrenc is especially affecting.

There are not that many opportunities to hear flute, horn and piano repertoire. This is a pity as the Scènes de la fôret (1907) by Mel Bonis is a truly beguiling set of vignettes, the horn moving from subservient colouring of the flute to forceful driver of the changing moods. Claude Arrieu’s energetic Trio d’anches (Reed trio) for oboe, clarinet and bassoon is witty and charming by turns, suggesting an affinity with Milhaud or Honegger, while Lili Boulanger’s achingly beautiful Nocturne is an exception in already being a reasonably well-known, though certainly no less welcome, work. As for Pauline Viardot-Garcia’s Violin Sonatine (1874), there is no musical reason why this searching yet playful piece should not have a firm place in the repertoire.

Performances throughout are remarkably nuanced given the rarity of most of these pieces, at least until now.

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Christopher Dingle