Classical CD Reviews

PAUL JUON (1872-1940): Sextet Op. 22 in C minor; Quintet Op. 44 in F major – Oliver Trendl, piano/ Thomas Grossenbacher, c. /Carmina Quartet – CPO

The Carmina and their colleagues unerringly locate the means to transition through to some extraordinary musical ecstasy.

Published on December 29, 2012

PAUL JUON (1872-1940): Sextet Op. 22 in C minor; Quintet Op. 44 in F major – Oliver Trendl, piano/ Thomas Grossenbacher, c. /Carmina Quartet – CPO

PAUL JUON (1872-1940): Sextet Op. 22 in C minor for 2 violins, viola, 2 cellos and piano; Quintet Op. 44 in F major for violin, 2 violas, cello and piano – Oliver Trendl, piano/ Thomas Grossenbacher, c. /Carmina Quartet – CPO 777507-2, 71:27 [Distr. by Naxos] ****: 

CPO continues it Paul Juon revival with two wonderfully free and deeply conservative Romantic scores from the first decade of the 20th Century. Born in Moscow to the insurance agent son of a Swiss émigré, Juon studied with Arensky and Taneyev and progressed to the point where a contemporary critic considered him “the missing link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky,” a tribute to Juon’s anticipation of musical developments particularly the manipulation of meters to create a musical dramaturgy with unusual flexibility and rhetorical intensity.

While the liner notes note Juon’s debt in the highly mellifluous Sextet to Brahms and Chopin, among others, there is more of the light-hearted Schumann flow and the Russian influence never really wanes underneath it all. In the earlier Sextet, in addition to the pleasant succession of lovely tunes, some of the sound combinations Juon achieves provide constant delight. In the Piano Quintet, written in 1909, the mix is tempered by harmonic confrontations, surprising steel and emotional power.

What makes this precise yet warm Basel studio recording doubly interesting is the inspired playing of the Zurich-based Carmina Quartet, famous for a superb Schubert quartet cycle on Claves. At times, in the Quintet (which would receive regular hearings in an equitable parallel universe), when it sounds like only dogged determination will get them through the music’s thornier thickets and contradictory harmonic patches, the Carmina and their colleagues unerringly locate the means to transition through to some extraordinary musical ecstasy.

—Laurence Vittes




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