Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894)

Music for Violin, Cello and Piano

Sonata for Violin and Piano in G
1. Très modéré
2. Très lent
3. Très animé

Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C minor
4. Lent – Allegro
5. Très lent
6. Très animé (Scherzo)
7. Lent – Allegro molto


Musicalifeiten, Jan de Kruijff

"Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos play the work (Violin Sonata) with appropriate and dignified feeling, carefully dealing with details. But this CD derives its importance even more from the Piano Trio, an erroneously underestimated passionate four-part masterpiece of almost 45 minutes in size and of a Beethovenian allure. It contains a few special moments in the moving, long piano passage at the start of the très lent, the powerful scherzo as a whole and the mysterious lento section from the final. It is precisely those moments that give this recording, as a whole, a successful recording its special value."


Classical Music Sentinel, Jean-Yves Duperron

"Violinist Bruno Monteiro shapes each phrase differently according to its expressive content or emotive weight. For example the sweet tone he uses to introduce the main motif of the Sonata eventually becomes emotionally charged or downright inexorable in its discourse. And because pianist Joao Paulo Santos has been collaborating with Monteiro for quite a while now, the piano reacts to the violin in a symbiotic fashion and follows the action accordingly while adding its own insights. And the sadness they both express at the end of the middle slow movement is quite touching. Quite the opposite can be said about the Scherzo movement of the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C minor in which Bruno Monteiro, Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha all jump into the action guns blaring, and deliver a highly commited reading. And once you hear this deeply dramatic and moving account of the ending of this Trio, you will definitely feel the need to further explore the music of Guillaume Lekeu."


Fanfare Magazine, Dave Saemann

"The artists on the present CD are beautifully attuned to Lekeu's melos. Violinist Bruno Monteiro was a student of Isidore Cohen and Shmuel Ashkenasi. He possesses a reedy, expressive sound reminiscent of Joseph Roisman of the Budapest Quartet. His regular duo partner, conductor-pianist João Paulo Santos, is a splendid chamber musician, making a lovely, full sound and always displaying flexibility for his colleagues. There is a recording of Lekeu's violin sonata by Elmar Oliveira and Robert Koenig that exhibits violinism of the ultimate smoothness and suppleness, something Monteiro can't touch. But Monteiro and Santos are the superior interpreters of the sonata, greatly attuned to Lekeu's long lines and haunting, borderline macabre atmosphere.Cellist Miguel Rocha is a worthy collaborator with these two artists in the piano trio. He has a big sound and explores the extreme world of Lekeu with tension and subtlety. Highly recommended."


Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

****Intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity: musicianly performances of beautiful music

"Monteiro and Santos seem to find exactly the right tempo (it is marked “Très modéré”) so that the music has a sense of expansion but does not feel overly languorous. The central slow movement is touchingly done, the result is absolutely beautiful. The finale is Gemini-like in having two faces, one forwardly-thrusting, one decidedly reflective. Monteiro and Santos offer an intelligent, tensile reading, There is less competition still for the Piano Trio in C-Minor (1890). Again, Grumiaux recorded it with his Trio (but again this appears to be currently unavailable). This present performance by Monteiro, Rocha and Santos reflects the strengths of that of the Violin Sonata: intelligent and focused with a core of expressivity. The addition of cellist Miguel Rocha to the mix is a positive one, he is a fine exponent of his instrument and a sensitive chamber musician. Those passages where violin and cello play in octaves find the two players in complete accord. The highlights of this reading is the second movement, “Très Lent,” an oasis of beauty, and the astonishing, suspended-time passage that opens the finale (another “Lent”)."


Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

***** Sublimely beautiful music, exquisitely performed and recorded

"It's quite exquisite, breathtaking really, especially in this reading by Monteiro and Santos. Much as I admired the performance by Frédéric Bednarz and Natsuki Hiratsuka in 39:3, I find myself transported to an even higher level of the sublime by this new recording that captures the music's magical ambiance in a special way. Amazon's inventory offers a wider choice, including versions by Arthur Grumiaux, Lola Bobesco, Christian Ferras, and a number of others not listed by ArkivMusic. I've not heard the relatively recent recording by Alina Ibragimova with Cédric Tiberghien that received an urgent recommendation from Robert Maxham in 35:3. Generally, I've been very receptive to Ibragimova's playing, and would no doubt like her performance of Lekeu's sonata, but with Monteiro and Santos's CD in hand, I can't imagine it being bettered or wanting to trade it in for another version. I can't say that this performance of the Trio by Monteiro, Santos, and cellist Miguel Rocha is better than the one by the Hochelaga Trio that blew me away in 36:2, but it's mighty fine, and the truly exceptional performance of the Violin Sonata with which it's paired pushes this release into the urgent recommendation category."


MusicWeb International, Stephen Barber

"Monteiro has the rich and full-blooded tone Lekeu's violin writing requires, and Santos has all the technique in the world, which he certainly needs for Lekeu's elaborate piano parts. The tone of the cellist, Rocha, is similar to that of Monteiro, and he fits in well into the trio. I have no complaints about the recording quality. There are sleeve notes in English and Portuguese and an attractive cover picture; this is a stylish production."


MusicWeb International, Stuart Sillitoe

A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu

"I have always had a soft spot for Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe’s 2014 recording of the Violin Sonata (CHAN 10812), and even when compared to the highly praised recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (CDA67820), this remains my favourite. So, Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos have tough acts to follow in this enjoyable performance, their slightly slower tempos do emphasise the sustained passion of the Sonata, however, it is the more impassioned performance of Little and Roscoe which for me still comes out on top, although Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paulo Santos make a good impression and are not that far behind.
The Piano Trio has fared less well with only a handful of recordings available, with my introduction to the work being through the Spiller Trio’s performance on the Arts label (47567-2) from 1999". The work is perhaps a little to long with the composer over developing the thematic material, but that being said there are some nice passages here, especially in the slow second movement were once again the composer’s passionate nature shines forth, especially in this new recording where Monteiro, Rocha and Santos exploit the emotional element slightly more that the Spiller Trio with their slightly slower tempo. Indeed, throughout this new recording has the edge with their playing being more committed, whilst they also benefit from better sound than the Spiller Trio are afforded on the Arts recording.
This is an enjoyable recording one which while it is not my first choice for the Violin Sonata, it does give you a committed performance, something which is carried over into the Piano Trio, where this recording is my preferred when compared with that of the Spiller Trio. The sound is very good. The booklet notes also by Bruno Monteiro, although brief, are informative and helpful. A disc I like the more I listen to it, and one which has my recommendation if you are looking for a disc that solely presents the music of Guillaume Lekeu."


Pizzicato, Uwe Krusch

"They play with such overwhelming fervour and energy that one can become dizzy. This is extremely impressive and stirring..."


Classical Candor, John Puccio

"Monteiro appropriately plays the work in a most sympathetic manner, his violin sounding soulful and yearning, the piano accompaniment forceful but never interfering with Monteiro's splendidly forthright and emotionally affecting interpretation. While the third movement is clearly more animated than the others, particularly in the first section, the composer going out on a swirl of notes so to speak, the music nevertheless maintains the same mood of tempered sadness we see throughout. And Monteiro is careful to sustain that tone to the end. In all, it's a lovely piece, and Monteiro and Santos show their appreciation with a delicately wrought performance. Monteiro and his friends play it with a full measure of fluid grace, sophistication, and brilliance, never sentimentalizing the plush harmonies. Producer Bruno Monteiro and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in June and July 2018. The violin has a sweet, decorous tone, and its miking sets it back far enough to benefit from the room acoustics. The overall sound for the three instrumentalists is warm and smooth as well, with a natural presence, the several instruments together in excellent balance."


Crescendo Magazine (Belgium), Pierre Jean Tribot

"The music of Guillaume Lekeu struggles to dominate the repertoire, including that of the artists of the French-speaking world. In this context, we salute the brave initiative of this Portuguese team led by violinist Bruno Monteiro, a musician trained between his native country and the United States. We love his beautiful sensibility in the Sonata for violin and piano, work definitely marked by the interpretation of Philippe Hirschhorn and Jean-Claude Vanden Eyden (Ricercar). The Trio for piano, violin and cello is a fitting complement, especially since it is surrounded here with all the required expression. We are delighted to see Portuguese artists contributing to the international reputation of this Belgian composer."


Expresso, João Santos

"Lekeu did not have the time to read Proust, but red Mallarmé, who suggested that there are "states of mind" that we only attain by "completely deciphering an object" - that is, when our mediation does not offset the impact of its ambiguities. Remembers this beautiful album that's exactly what Lekeu tried to do with chamber music."


Musical Opinion, Robert Matthew-Walker

"The tragic brief life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) cut short a career that gave every indication of a truly major talent. Because of his early death, his surviving works are very few in number, but all show compositional gifts of unique qualities. We are indeed grateful to Bruno Monteiro, the driving force behind this importante new release for this outstanding new CD of Lekeu´s two major chamber works, in which he is magnificently partnered by João Paulo Santos and Miguel Rocha. The Violin Sonata is virtually on a pair with Cesar Franck´s in terms of originality and consistent quality, and simply does not deserve the neglect which has befallen it. As with the Sonata, Lekeu´s Piano Trio is more than the equal of those by Fauré, and I very much hope this fine new recording achieves the sucess, artistic and comercial, it richly deserves. Bravo!"


Resmusica, Jean-Luc Caron

"In defense of these essential works of Lekeu, three Portuguese musicians put their art, clearly great and noble to the service of the music and they combine to make their playing so impeccable, enthusiastic, passionate and provocative."


Classique News, Hugo Papbst

"Like many of the early geniuses, Lekeu was mowed at the age of 24 (died in Angers on 21 January 1894) with typhoid fever, leaving us orphans of a rare and passionate talent whose rich texture, taste for chromaticism, a obviously Wagnerian thought, remains the eternal promise of a forever refused maturity. Yet the two scores discussed here clearly indicate the obvious realization of a dense, intense writing performed despite the French romantic composer at a young age.He also won the 2nd Prize of Rome in 1891 (for his Andromeda cantata to urgently rehearse.) The sense of color, the harmonious flow of modulations and uninterrupted passages shape a particularly opulent and active material, Listening to them, the "Rimbaud" of French music did not usurp his nickname or the relevance of this poetic rapprochement.
Frequently presented as his masterpiece, the Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, composed in the summer of 1892, was successfully premiered in Brussels in March 1893 by the famous violinist Eugène Ysaÿe (who was the Sonata's special dedicator). It takes a lot of energy and commitment, but also delicacy to take on this permanent lyricism whose overactivity can obscure the meaning and clarity of architecture. Because also influenced by Beethoven, Lekeu has a passion for form, development, driven by a musical ambition and a perfectionist instinct in every respect. Everything is perfectly connected in this 2-voice Sonata whose expressive acuity shines in an overflowing melodic lyricism, a sense of structure also better balanced, channeled and built in the very seductive and light first "Trés modéré" movement; "Trés lent" central points point to the nuances of a very introspective violin; before the end (Trés animé), openly in love or rampant but always fresh and springy.
Most captivating to our taste, the Piano Trio has the charm of radiant sincerity, though still undecided even clumsy in its writing. It is a little older (composed in 1890), where the influence of the Beethovenian structure is most clearly employed in its more explicit construction, although the first and last moves are full of dense and mixed ideas and harmonic reminiscences that underlie the critiques. Regretting many developments. Ambitious, the scoreboard employs four particularly "talkative" or ... dramatic movements, say the most benevolent. Passionate soul and intricate strength, Lekeu knows how to deploy a boundless intimate imagination as attested by the first movement in which two very contrasting episodes (energetic lent and Allegro) interact, expressing a series of nuanced prolix feelings: pain first, with somber reverie, from the furtive renunciation to the most diffuse depression: all here through the filter of an expert and hyperactive sensitivity, denounces and experiences the failure and repetition of intimate wounds. Trés lent, then the highly syncopated Scherzo, finally the ending, which is also slow, perhaps too long, though harmoniously exciting, believes in the strong genius of the young romantic; the three interpreters make patterns emerge in echoes or opposition; which also refines the violin while controlling the intensity of Bruno Monteiro. There remains the Cello / Piano Sonata (1888), the Piano Quartet (1893), to capture the genius of a young and exciting Lekeu. For future registrations? Next."


Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves

The best of Lekeu

“ (…) Violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos chose him to continue a discography that already has a dozen notable titles, most devoted to less obvious and immediate composers, in the repertoire: Schulhoff, Szymanowski, Korngold. Looking at the choise, it does not seem like a fluke. It reinforces the testimony of Romanticism by Schumann, Chausson, Grieg, Saint-Saëns or Franck, and looks at the choice of twentieth-century expressions such as Ernest Bloch, Armando José Fernandes or Fernando Lopes-Graça. But what it reveals above all is an excellent interpretation of two more or less rare works - the Sonata for violin and piano in G Major, and the Trio for violin, cello and piano in C minor - on a beautiful recording, to be placed among the first choices of the composer's chamber music. (…)

Chamber production, between the Sonatas for violin and cello, the trio and the Quartet with piano in B minor, and the orchestral production, with symphonic studies and the Adagio for orchestra, some more fragments of unfinished works, allowed about 20 years ago, the five CD edition from Ricercar that brought together musicians such as pianists Luc Devos, Catherine Mertens and Daniel Blumenthal, violinists Philippe Hirshhorn, Philippe Koch and Anne Leonardo, cellists Luc Dewez and Marie Hallynck, organist Bernard Foccroulle, singers as the soprano Greta de Reyghere and tenor Guy De Mey.

This was the first and only published set to date of Lekeu's work. Until then - and after - the recordings were always dominated by the Violin Sonata, accompanied by one or more pieces by the composer, or compositions by his master César Franck. Such is the award-winning version recording of Gerard Poulet and Noel Lee (Arion), the meeting of Augustin Dumay and Jean Philippe Collard, which cross Debussy and Ravel (Erato), or the reference of decades by Arthur Grumiaux and Dinorah Varsi (Philips), the Spiller Trio (Arts), featuring the Piano Trio, and the celebrated recording by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Hypérion), with the complete works for violin and piano, are two albums devoted entirely to the Belgian composer, which stand out in the existing discography. Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos' new album, with cellist Miguel Rocha, obviously joins the group of the elect.

Violinist and pianist, who have years of complicity, with all programs performed in concert, live, before any recording, are perfect in the Sonata in G Major, completed in 1892, perhaps the most demanding for both instruments, and the most mature from Lekeu´s output. Here there is clarity, cleanliness and balance in the dialogue between violin and piano. Monteiro immediately seduces in the opening theme, drawing a long and fascinating melodic line that leads to the heart of the work, with a piano rising in the foreground. The trip culminates in a strong and vigorous re-exposure that requires the maximum of both interpreters. (…)

Once again Lekeu's expression seems drawn to the best of Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, who find in Miguel Rocha a partner at the same level of demand. Emotion predominates and everything is surpassed by glow. The interpretation of the musicians is extremely intelligent in accentuating the more passionate side of the work, taking advantage of what it’s own "immaturity" may seem. They thus reveal a richer vision that ennobles Lekeu's forgotten Trio. It is generous. But it's also another factor of excellence that characterizes the album."


BBC Music Magazine, Michael Beek

"An emotionally- drenched sonata and trio show us a composer who was mature beyond his short-lived years. Intimate recording of passionate performances only adds to the impact."


Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

“The strength of this music lies above all in its strictly own expressive character and does not tolerate what unfortunately many musicians (even some famous ones) do: the tendency to just 'play'. True art is always crawling under the skin of music and with her the composer and stay away from artifacts, artificialities that violate the expressive and structural concept. Can this be expected from Portuguese performers? Why aren't they too far from Lekeu's music in an idiomatic sense? This may seem at first glance. It is precisely this transboundary nature of Lekeu's music that offers more than enough room for interpretations that - like the music itself - far exceed its own national character. This also happens here: this Portuguese trio perfectly together avoids demotivation, but yes achieves the ideal effect by letting the music "simply" speak , no frills, no agogic accentuation, but therefore the still more moving and impressive. Music that is as overwhelming from very close as from far away.

The fact that this Portuguese triumvirate has given its name to this beautiful but still little known music gives a warm feeling that fits perfectly with the Iberian sun and the pronounced, sun-drenched lyrical landscape, but sometimes too irregular in the distant. The recording lets you hear the smallest details. The name of the piano tuner. Paulo Pimentel is more than justified: he provided a perfectly tuned Steinway. The violinist was responsible for the entire production, which makes a very valuable contribution to hopefully reviving Lekeu. Now is the time."


Revista Ritmo, Juan Carlos Moreno

***** S (Extraordinary Sound)

“ (…) Through an impeccable sound, the performers of this album succeed in translating everything that is here of life, drama, passion, fluctuating from the most intimate tone to the most exasperated in a fluid and musical way, without excesses or ups and downs. Full recommendation."


Luister Magazin, Hans Quant

“What an ominous date: 1870-1894, 24 years! No war violence here, but complications in a typhus infestation that would prematurely end the life of the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu. He admired Wagner, he would have fainted with excitement with a performance by Tristan und Isolde. His studies with César Franck and Vincent d’Indy have audible influence in his works. The Sonata for violin and piano in G major from 1892 shows a precocious master who can write large-scale music in a small line-up. The first part is a world in itself, rich in moods, ingenious in its harmonic development, a grand romantic composition. The slow part is a melancholic song, the third part is "très animé", energetic, with a strong climax at the end. The Piano Trio in C minor is a little earlier, from 1890, more classically oriented. The toiling-searching of the slow part is followed by a fierce Scherzo, but a feeling of powerlessness colors the whole work. The performers play with full dedication. Previously recommended, in the violin sonata, Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe (Chandos) or Ibragimova and Tibergien (Hyperion)."


ArkivMusic, Henry S.

Intense and Impressive


“Were it not for the model that Mozart established as a 'wunderkind' composer, it would be hard to imagine that a teenager could create music of great intensity and complexity. Nevertheless, this is the legacy that Guillaume Lekeu left in the late 19th century. Only 24 years when he died in 1894, Lekeu composed a striking series of chamber music works, and 2 of them are put on full display in this new Brilliant Classics recording. Featuring a trio of excellent Portugese musicians, the program sizzles with powerfully extroverted passages, all the while projecting an atmosphere of seriousness, even sadness.
This is gorgeous music, and I definitely recommend the disk to all chamber music devotees."


The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

Catching Up on Bruno Monteiro´s Recordings

“Readers with relatively long memories may recall the interest I took when Brilliant Classics shifted from providing “reprint” anthologies to producing original recordings. One of the first of these releases was an album consisting of the complete music for violin and piano by Karol Szymanowski. This came out in May of 2015, back when I was writing for Examiner.com. The performers on this album were both Portuguese, violinist Bruno Monteiro and pianist João Paulo Santos. By the time their second album was released, Examiner.com had closed; and I was able to write about them on this site. That second album was another “complete works” release, this time covering Erwin Schulhoff’s compositions for violin and piano.

I have now caught up with this duo by listening to the album they released this past May. This is not a “complete works” program. Rather it samples two compositions by Guillaume Lekeu, a late nineteenth-century Belgian composer that died at the age of 24 but left behind about fifty completed works.

When this album was released, Lekeu was not a stranger to me. Ironically, I had learned about him when violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien made their album of the complete works for violin and piano composed by Maurice Ravel for Hyperion Records. Because that content was not enough to fill a single compact disc, they provided an “overture” of sorts in the form of Lekeu’s G major violin sonata, composed between 1892 and 1893. (Lekeu would die on the day after his 24th birthday in January of 1894, having contracted typhoid fever from a contaminated sorbet.) Since Lekeu’s death preceded Ravel’s earliest sonata for violin and piano, his sonata preceded the entire Ravel corpus on the Hyperion release.

I therefore welcomed the opportunity to listen to an album devoted entirely to Lekeu’s music. The first half of the recent Brilliant release consists of an account of that G major sonata by Monteiro and Santos. This is followed by a somewhat earlier composition, a piano trio in C minor composed between 1889 and 1891. For this performance Monteiro and Santos are joined by cellist Miguel Rocha. By way of chronological context, Lekeu had visited Bayreuth to see performances of operas by Richard Wagner in August of 1889; and after his return he began private lessons in counterpoint and fugue with César Franck, who would later die while Lekeu was working on his trio.

There are those that associate Lekeu and his G major sonata with the sonata by the fictitious composer Vinteuil that figures significantly in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. However, Proust began work on this project in 1909 and was familiar enough with concert performances that any number of candidates for Vinteuil had been proposed. For my part I had not heard of Lekeu when I set about to read Proust, so I was content to think about other composers from the late nineteenth century! (I seem to recall listening to chamber music by Camille Saint-Saëns while reading Proust.)

Taken as a whole, this is definitely an album of discovery. Because I tend to seek significance in chronology, I probably would have preferred to have the trio precede the sonata, rather than follow it. On the other hand the trio is the longer work, and I find that I have encountered a variety of ways in which Lekeu chose to go beyond traditional approaches to structure. The sonata, on the other hand, was the result of a commission by Eugène Ysaÿe; and it tends to be the more accessible of the two pieces on the album. Consequently, there may have been some logic behind the decision of the performers to draw upon the sonata to “introduce” Lekeu to listeners encountering his music for the first time.

Nevertheless, regardless of motives and contexts, each of these two selections makes for a thoroughly absorbing listening experience in its own right."


Scherzo Magazine, Asier Vallejo Ugarte

“Only twenty-four years lived the Belgian Guillaume Lekeu, between 1870 and 1894, during which he had time to admire Wagner's music (it is said that he fainted while listening to Tristan and Isolde in Bayreuth) and receive lessons from Franck and D'Indy. The trail of the three can be seen in these two broad, ambitious, affectionate and impetuous works, composed in a romantic key and crossed by a melancholy that gives special strength to the dramatic moments. The same determination that he would have to compose them is shown by these three Portuguese performers, Bruno Monteiro, Miguel Rocha and João Paulo Santos, not well known to us, but with important careers behind them. Together they offer a great portrait of Lekeu, of a young man who, as far as he tells through his music, had a lot of life to give to the world. The Sonata for violin had an extraordinary godfather, Ysaÿe, who premiered it in Brussels in 1893. It is a work that shows good points of contact between the sonorities of the two instruments, violin and piano, besides joining to its cyclical structure (in the middle of the Franckian line) a lyricism that reaffirms, maturing it, purifying it and refining it, the inner story of the Trio, that speaks in first person of intimate thoughts, of a warm and dreamy vision of its own existence. The notes on the record underline Beethoven's influence, expressed from the start in the emblematic tonality of C minor, which was elevated to an expressive category throughout the 19th century, but also in the strength and character of some of his themes, which, however, Lekeu does not develop with the skill, mastery and dexterity of the great classics, as if in many moments of the piece the emotional charge was ahead of the technique, the need for expression ahead of pure musical writing."