Debusy, Enescu, Ravel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Debusy,Enescu,Ravel
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: In the Shade of Forests
WORKS: Violin Sonata; Nocturne et Scherzo; Il pleut dans mon coeur; La fille aux cheveux de lin; Minstrels; Beau soir; Impressions d’enfance; Sonata postume; Tzigane
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin), Claire Désert (piano and luthéal)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2059
Each new recording of Debussy’s Late Sonata appears to bring fresh insights. Philippe Graffin’s and Claire Désert’s supple phrasing and engaging simplicity bring the work’s neo-Classical gestures bubbling to the surface, captured by producer-engineer Tom Peeters in sound of autumnal radiance and allure. The five arrangements usefully round out Debussy’s complete violin oeuvre, although collectors wanting just the Sonata will find Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires (DG) bring a sense of fantasy and devil-may-care exuberance to this captivating work that makes the new account feel just a shade ‘safe’.

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It’s much the same situation regarding Ravel’s Tzigane. Graffin’s poetic refinement and refusal to lay on the espressivo with a trowel, lend a chamber-scale intimacy to this performance, enhanced by the use of an authentically-sized luthéal (a type of piano with stops that when engaged variously emulate the dulcimer of an authentic gypsy band). If you prefer your Ravel on a predominately ‘cool’ setting, then look no further, but for a version (also with luthéal) that really pulls out all the virtuoso stops, leaving the listene xhausted and elated as the final bars hurtle away into the stratosphere, then Chantal Juillet and Pascal Rogé (Decca) really take some beating.

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The ten playful miniatures that make up Enescu’s Op. 28, and Ravel’s early Sonata, are also impeccably shaped by Graffin and Désert, making this a disc for those who value exquisite refinement above all. Julian Haylock