Thursday, 5 September 2013

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, September 2013)

Mirare 190 / *****

Composers have over the centuries sought to relive memories of their formative years through simplicity and childlikeness in music. Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood and Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite for piano solo are good examples of this. In the piano duet genre, the French have the field to themselves, represented by these four works. Masterpieces in miniature may describe Gabriel Faure’s Dolly Suite, the seamless lyricism of its Berceuse and Dolly’s Garden has rarely been matched. The 12 movements of Georges Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games) are also varied delights, whether playing with toy soldiers (Trumpet and Drum), dolls (Little Husband, Little Wife), spinning tops or bounding beach balls.

Both Debussy’s Petite Suite and Ravel’s Mother Goose have orchestral versions which have become ballet spectaculars, but it is the piano duets that remain true to the original spirit. The dances by Debussy, which include a Cortege, Minuet and Ballet, sound more authentic in this guise. Best of all are Ravel’s characterisations of Charles Perrault’s tales. Gamelan effects in Princess of The Pagodas, the gauche waltz in  Conversations of Beauty and the Beast, and the splashy glissandi in The Fairy’s Garden bring out orchestral effects, if only imagined. French pianists Claire Désert and Emmanuel Strosser are well-known soloists in their own right, but together they find an uncommon chemistry which makes these enchanting performances glitter and come alive for all their innocence.

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