Music plays an important role in Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, and nowhere more importantly than in the sonata by Vinteuil and its famous "petite phrase." Readers and scholars have long wondered if Proust had in mind an actual piece as he wrote about the Vinteuil sonata, and various writers have proposed works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Franck, and Reynaldo Hahn. The members of a Proust club in Cabourg-Balbec hosted a performance on Saturday that offered to settle the problem in another way, as reported by Pierre Gervasoni (Claude Pascal et la musique de Proust, November 23) for Le Monde (my translation):
The only name that matters for them is that of Claude Pascal, 89 years old, the creator of a sonata "attributed" to Vinteuil that violinist Yuri Kuroda and pianist Simon Zouoi just brilliantly premiered (for the microphones of the Polymnie label) in the sumptuous dining room of Grand Hôtel de Cabourg, the very place where Proust sat to eat his sole. In comments both learned and spirited, the composer explained how he came to write a Sonate de Vinteuil -- in 1946. Living at the Villa Médicis as a winner of the Prix de Rome, he was able to fulfill the commission of this work only by thinking of its heavy heritage abstractly. Still, this score, recently discovered by the art historian Annie Verger presents itself in a Proustian key. Seduction, barbs of pain, timelessness, latent activity, it is all there, especially in a Finale, evocative of a river of words, that garnered the approval of the expert audience. Elusive, the thematic writing of Claude Pascal really does echo the celebrated "petite phrase" of Marcel Proust.