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Briefly Noted: Debussy Feast

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C. Debussy, Late Works, I. Faust, X. de Maistre, A. Melnikov, M. Mosnier, J. Perianes, J.-G. Queyras, A. Tamestit, T. de Williencourt

(released on October 5, 2018)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902303 | 54'02"
During the First World War, Claude Debussy began a series of six instrumental sonatas. Although he managed to complete only three of them, he planned for the set to range into unusual combinations, including one for oboe, horn, and harpsichord, and another for trumpet, clarinet, bassoon, and piano. The project would conclude with a sonata for all of the instruments featured in the series up to that point. Each of these late sonatas is a marvel of economy, a startling variety of harmony, rhythm, and texture compressed into three-movement tours de force, each one lasting under twenty minutes. Within just a year of finishing only the third sonata planned in the series, the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Debussy died of colon cancer, in the midst of the German army’s bombardment of the city of Paris.

This disc brings together a dream team of musicians, some of them French, to record those three completed sonatas as part of a Harmonia Mundi project to mark the centenary of Debussy's death. Each of the three sonatas receives an ideal interpretation: the limpid and playful violin tone of Isabelle Faust accompanied by Alexander Melnikov in the Violin Sonata; the balanced, engaging narration of cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras accompanied by pianist Javier Perianes in the Cello Sonata; and the outstanding combination of flutist Magali Mosnier, harpist Xavier de Maistre, and violist Antoine Tamestit, all performing on historical instruments, in the triple sonata. Pianist Tanguy de Williencourt adds short character pieces for piano as amuse-gueules to clear the palate after each of these more substantial main courses.

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