Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor; Sonata for Violin & Cello; Violin Sonata

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arabesque
WORKS: Piano Trio in A minor; Sonata for Violin & Cello; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
This two-CD set contains almost but not quite everything Ravel wrote for solo violin and/or cello (with or without piano). But why no Tzigane? Granted, there’s little point in being complete simply for completeness’s sake; but there would have been plenty of room for this more substantial and durable offering. It’s good to have the early Violin Sonata as well as the much better-known G major Sonata, but there are more persuasive performances of both works (plus Tzigane and the Violin and Cello Sonata) on a single CD by Chantal Juillet and Pascal Rogé, and a lovely performance of the G major by Arthur Grumiaux and István Hajdu on a medium-price Philips disc – coupled with the Piano Trio (the Beaux Arts Trio on top form) and the String Quartet. The Laredo/Robinson performance of the Sonata for Violin and Cello – good as it is – is outclassed by the splendid Kennedy/Harrell version on EMI (reviewed in June). The playing here can be sensitive, but pianist Joseph Kalichstein’s pointing of phrases tends to sound over-careful – as in the Passacaglia theme from the Piano Trio. The recording places him backwardly and muddies some of the piano textures (or is Kalichstein simply too generous with the sustaining pedal?). I also found the G major Violin Sonata oddly uninvolving, despite Jaime Laredo’s obvious hard work in the perpetuum mobile finale. Stephen Johnson