Saint-Sa‘ns, Franaix, Soulage, Boutry & Milhaud

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Boutry & Milhaud,Franaix,Saint-Sa‘ns,Soulage
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: French chamber music
WORKS: Works by Saint-Saëns, Françaix, Soulage, Boutry & Milhaud
PERFORMER: Heimbach Chamber Music Festival/Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 557 7982
Several factors prevent this delightfully varied programme from an unqualified recommendation. In Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals, close miking underlines the ensemble’s tense and hard-hitting approach to the finale, as opposed to the excitement generated by the ensemble in Virgin’s version (reviewed February 2004). While the off-stage clarinet cuckoo effect comes off well, other recorded balances prove less than ideal. Flautist Andrea Liberknecht negotiates the ‘Aviary’ unscathed, but she is not as swift and effortless as Emmanuel Pahud on Virgin. And the latter’s pianists work less hard keeping the composer’s tongue in his cheek, so to speak, than Mihaela Ursuleasa and Lars Vogt here. However, Ursuleasa and Vogt turn in a sophisticated performance of Milhaud’s Scaramouche. Françaix’s Divertissement is a masterpiece of textural variety and harmonic wizardry for bassoon and string quartet, and the Heimbach players’ sharply honed rendition ranks with the Gaudier Ensemble’s benchmark Hyperion recording. But the high standard of Christian Tetzlaff’s focused virtuosity in Saint-Saëns’s gorgeous Fantasy for violin and harp faces Renaud Capuçon’s lighter, more elegant competition on Virgin. The Soulage Légende beguiles in an idiom similar to Françaix, while Boutry’s bleak harmonic language overshadows his attempts at levity and wit in Interférences 1. Jed Distler

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