French Music for Clarinet and Piano

Author: 
Lionel Salter

French Music for Clarinet and Piano

  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
  • Première rapsodie
  • (2) Arabesques, No 2
  • (24) Préludes, La fille aux cheveux de lin
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
  • Andantino
  • Pièce en forme de habanera
  • Canzonetta
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
  • Première rapsodie
  • (2) Arabesques, No 2
  • (24) Préludes, La fille aux cheveux de lin
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
  • Andantino
  • Pièce en forme de habanera
  • Canzonetta

When Gervase de Peyer gave a couple of London concerts earlier this year, our ''News & Views'' columns hailed with understandable pleasure his ''return to these shores after more than a decade spent in the USA'': as an inveterate reader of the small print, however, I observe that the present recordings were made in Hampstead four or five years ago. It seems unkind to have kept them from us for so long; but there is little doubt that they will now be eagerly welcomed. This is easily the best available version of the Saint-Saens Sonata, one of his last and most meticulously crafted works, and the most substantial item here. Janet Hilton's Chandos recording of it, for all the beauty of her tone, sounds altogether too careful, with cautious speeds in the outer movements: Guy Deplus (Cybelia), though suave and elegant, lets the Lento fall apart, and his pianist Anne Queffelec is too loud nearly throughout (in this respect the close recording does not help). De Peyer is more romantic and expressive in the first movement, his delicate staccato articulation in the scherzo (in which, unlike most players, he does not slacken the pace for the 'gulping' second subject) is delicious; he secures real continuity in the Lento and he is admirably balanced with the excellent Pryor. (He is just momentarily less than his polished best in the triplets after fig. 2 in the finale.)
In the Poulenc sonata the subtlety of both artists' tonal nuances is impressive (some lovely tender soft playing near the end of the Romanza). As compared with de Peyer's own New York performance (Erato CD ECD88044, 12/84), this is more cleanly recorded, skirls on notes are more deft, and the impetuous start of the finale is more evenly controlled. In the earlier version I was always slightly worried, too, by the clarinet's middle G (concert), which was fractionally sharp in the Romanza. Sensitive dynamics and warm tone from both partners are again features in the Debussy Rapsodie, whose vein of fantasy is most effectively caught here: there is more character in this reading than in rival versions. The remaining pieces—three of them arrangements (that of the Debussy Arabesque rather debatable in style)—serve to show off different aspects of the Peyer's artistry: the Ravel is seductively atmospheric, the Pierne lightly coquettish.'

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