Revisiting Milhaud’s Chamber Music

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MILHAUD: Suite Op. 157b. Danses de Jacarémirim. Sonata Pastorale for Violin Solo. Élegie Op. 251. Farandoles Op. 262. Caprice Op. 335a. Sonatine for Clarinet & Piano. Duo Concertante for Clarinet & Piano. Scaramouche Suite for Clarinet & Piano / Pierluigi Bernard, cl; Mauro Tortorelli, vln; Angela Meluso, pn / Brilliant Classics 95449

Here’s a really peppy and fun CD of chamber music for clarinet & piano or violin & piano. The set begins and ends with two familiar works, the Suite for clarinet, violin and piano and Scaramouche for clarinet and piano. There are so many fine versions of these works that I cannot say that the present recordings are in any way better, but they certainly aren’t any less good, either. I have two recordings of Scaramouche, one by clarinetist Marcelle Meyer with the composer the piano and another by Jean-Marc Fessard and pianist Eliane Reyes, both very good, and likewise two versions of the Suite.

In between, however, are some less familiar works, and it is in these that this gifted trio provides us with some valuable and outstanding performances. The Daises de Jacarémirim are just as upbeat and interesting as the Suite, but more harmonically advanced, with frequent chord and key shifts that come and go like fireflies in the night. Violinist Tortorelli plays with an energy and tone that strongly resembles that of a folk music fiddler, which is entirely appropriate for this music. In the Sonatina Pastorale for solo violin, Tortorelli plays in a bit more “legitimate” manner, yet still manages to sound energetic and involved, changing color and dynamics as he plays. A fabulous performance!

Tortorelli also plays more conventionally in the Élegie, but again moves towards a more folk-like style in the Farandoles. Pierluigi Bernard plays the Caprice and the Sonatine very well, but with a more uniform classical tone and technique. This hurts his performance of the Sonatine’s slow movement, which cries out for more varied color than he gives it, as it does the ebullient Duo Concertante, but taken on their own merits they are good versions.

The Scaramouche Suite benefits greatly from Angela Meluso’s enlivened pianism, which seems to prod Bernard to better playing in the outer movements, and in the slow middle movement (“Modéré”) he plays with a brighter, more varied tone than usual. Bernard also gets into the rhythmic drive of the last music well, but again reverts to a single tone color.

All told, a good recording, well worth acquiring if you don’t have most of these works.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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