Ravel/Debussy: Piano Trio; Violin Sonata; Cello Sonata

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel/Debussy
WORKS: Piano Trio; Violin Sonata; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano), Itzhak Perlman (violin), Lynn Harrell (cello)
Listeners who enjoy the agreements and clashes of personality at the heart of chamber music will find plenty to intrigue them. Sometimes, when an all-star group sounds larger than life, one player is more responsible than others. Here it’s Harrell. Left to themselves Ashkenazy and Perlman give a conversational performance of the Violin Sonata, full of a confidence that doesn’t need to show off. For some it may even sound undercharacterised, though Perlman’s poise and subtlety are of a rarefied order.


With the Trio the attitude becomes theatrical, and suitable for projection into a large hall (as suggested by the generous acoustic). This is spacious Ravel playing, stronger on tonal richness and emotion – lots of portamento, with Harrell leading the way – than sparky, nerve-end sensuousness. The quick movements have panache, at a rather solid pulse, and thunderous endings.


For the Cello Sonata a public style stays. It is a brilliant demonstration of cello playing: try the shading within the phrases that build up the first climax, or the virtuosity with pizzicato. Ashkenazy is with him all the way, a model of sensitive partnership. But the snatches of song, the hints of highly-strung tragedy, remain just eloquent melodies. Robert Maycock