WORKS: Viola Sonata No. 1; viola Sonata No. 2; Sonatine for Viola and Cello; Sonatine for Violin and Viola; Suite for Violin, Viola and Piano; Quatre visages
PERFORMER: Paul Cortese (viola), Michel Wagemans (piano), Joaquin Palomares (violin), Frank Schaffer (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1039
Darius Milhaud was a prolific composer. Had he lived in an earlier era this would have been regarded as a cause for celebration, but, like his older compatriot Koechlin, the sheer abundance of music has been viewed with a suspicion born out of laziness. Indeed, his best-known works come from the first dozen or so years of his career, leaving some people surprised that he died in 1974 rather than the Thirties or Forties. Despite the steady trickle of recordings over the past few years, the greater part of Milhaud’s output is unavailable and awaits the promulgation of an enterprising record company to allow a more balanced appraisal of his contribution.
Despite the unpromising title ‘Chamber music with viola’, this is a delightful disc. The Second Sonata for viola and piano and the Sonatine for viola and cello are particularly rewarding works demanding closer acquaintance, while the sustained high quality of invention in the other pieces dispels suggestions that Milhaud’s creativity was thinly spread. It would be hard to find better advocates for this repertoire than Paul Cortese and his partners, or a viola-centred recital displaying such variety of mood. Simply set preconceptions to one side and enjoy it. Christopher Dingle