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

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel/Debussy
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Trio; Violin Sonata; Cello Sonata
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano), Itzhak Perlman (violin), Lynn Harrell (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 444 318-2 DDD
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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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