Milhaud, Lekeu, Chausson & Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Chausson & Ravel,Lekeu,Milhaud
LABELS: Capriccio
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Petersen Quartet
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Petersen Quartet; Juliane Banse (soprano), Wolfram Rieger (piano)
The excellent Petersen Quartet kicks off a CD of French and Belgian works from a period surrounding the turn of the 20th century with the 20-year-old Milhaud’s First String Quartet (17 more were to follow). The work predates his discovery of jazz and South American idioms and compared to his later jeux d’esprit is a shade earnest, crouching in the shadow of Debussy and Ravel. Despite plenty of fiery outbursts and a rousing finale, it is strangely forgettable, but is played by the Petersen with no less conviction for all that.


For works by the short-lived Belgian Guillaume Lekeu and Chausson’s ravishing Chanson perpétuelle, it is joined by soprano Juliane Banse and pianist Wolfram Rieger. Banse’s words are sometimes indistinct, but what a glorious sound she makes, full-bodied and pure of tone, a seductive interpreter of pieces that deserve to be better known.


The Petersen’s reading of the Ravel is brisk and nervous, played with barely suppressed excitement and a wiry tension that keeps one on the edge of one’s seat. The listener almost starts to question what will happen next, which in such a well-aired piece has to be seen as something of a feat. Christopher Wood