Pierné Flute Sonata; Piano Trio

Author: 
Christopher Headington

Pierné Flute Sonata; Piano Trio

  • Sonata for Flute and Piano
  • Trio

I suspect that the majority of record collectors who like to explore off the beaten track simply don't realize how lucky they are with the catalogue as it is today. When I began listening seriously to records as a schoolboy, only a small amount of French music was obtainable—for example, I bought an HMV 78rpm disc of Rubinstein playing Debussy's ''Prelude'' in A minor coupled with Ravel's ''Forlane'' from Le tombeau de Couperin, and anyone wondering which of the Preludes the first of these was should know it was the first piece of Pour le piano. Those two pieces were all you could get of either suite, and together they cost about ten shillings. That was the equivalent of about £12·00 today, which will buy a CD lasting ten times as long, while virtually all the music of both composers is available several times over.
Not only that, but now even the byways of music and their lesser-known figures are opened up to us—let us give thanks! I reviewed two CDs featuring Pierne's music coming from different companies as recently as June, and here is another from a third source. The Flute Sonata is actually a transcription of a Violin Sonata (1900) but works well for the wind instrument, and its first movement with its rhythm of 10/16 and 6/8 combined has a compelling elan; I wonder if the pace chosen here is faster than the marked Allegretto, but it contrasts well with the gentler second movement, which is an Allegretto tranquillo.
The big Piano Trio in C minor is a later piece, although it shows the influence of Pierne's teacher Franck; some French scholars think it is his best work. It is certainly impressive, with a striking central scherzo in 8/8 (a Basque rhythm) with three irregular beats. Both works are fluently played in a forthright way but really need a more persuasive advocacy. It must be said that the Hungarian artists are short on subtlety and the recording is over-close, bright and unatmospheric. Nevertheless, even in today's climate there are unlikely to be other performances of this Pierne chamber music on the way and for the time being these deserve investigation.'

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