Classical CD Reviews

CHAUSSON: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 21; Poème, Op. 25 – Bruno Monteiro, violin / João Paulo Santos, p./ Quarteto Lopes-Graça – Centaur

This recording from Lisbon is simply not competitive.

Published on October 19, 2012

CHAUSSON: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 21; Poème, Op. 25 – Bruno Monteiro, violin / João Paulo Santos, p./  Quarteto Lopes-Graça – Centaur

CHAUSSON: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 21; Poème, Op. 25 – Bruno Monteiro, violin / João Paulo Santos, p./  Quarteto Lopes-Graça – Centaur CRC 3120 [Distr. by Qualiton], 54:14 **:

Ernest Chausson’s lovely Concert, as the name implies, is a chamber concerto, a form, like the concerto with orchestral accompaniment, pioneered by Vivaldi, in his series of concerti da camera. The chamber concerto features one or more instruments in a solo role, others in an accompanimental role. Chausson’s work includes the perfect accompanying body, a string quartet; however, given the difficulty of writing for quartet, he ended up compounding his challenges. The composer rashly concluded after the work’s debut that he had produced a failure, yet the Concert has established itself in the repertoire, a connoisseur’s chamber piece. Reflecting on its unusual form, Chausson oddly described it as a “projection” for the two solo instruments (violin and piano) against the string quartet.

Given the prominence of the violin and piano parts and the sometimes virtuosic music Chausson writes for them, celebrated violinists and pianists have been attracted to the work almost from the start. From Jacques Tibaud and Alfred Cortot to Joshua Bell and Jean-Yves Thibaudet and beyond, well-known pairs of performers have committed the piece to disc. A prospective listener thus has an array of stellar performers and truly fine performances to choose from. A new recording had better be pretty special to compete in this league, and unluckily, the current release does not measure up, is in fact a long way from doing so. The chief problem is the playing of Bruno Monteiro. Despite the claims made in the recording notes for his artistry, he has serious intonation problems throughout the Concert and even more in the more demanding Poème, usually heard in the version for violin and orchestra. Monteiro’s tone is quavery, far too often off target. It pains me to say that as a result, this is an almost painful listening experience. Unfortunate, given that João Paulo Santos is an able pianist and makes some fine expressive points in Chausson’s attractively written piano part (reminiscent of his teacher, César Franck).

So given the limitations mostly imposed by the violinist, this recording from Lisbon is simply noncompetitive. Seek out one of the many fine alternatives, and you’ll be much happier.

—Lee Passarella




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