Chausson/ Ysaÿe – Music for Violin, Cello and Piano

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)

Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G minor Op.3
1. Pas trop lent – Animé
2. Vite
3. Assez lent
4. Animé

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

5. Poème Élégiaque for Violin and Piano Op.12

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

6. Meditation-Poème for Cello and Piano Op.16

 

Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins

Five stars: Music and performances of the highest order

“(…) This is playing for which no superlatives exist to describe it. If it doesn’t elevate Chausson to the level of one of the very greatest of French Romantic composers and his Piano Trio to one of the very greatest works of its type from any period and of any national origin, I don’t know of any power on Earth that can exceed what these three indescribably magnificent artist-musicians have done here to accomplish that. This is playing so beautiful, so sensitive, so in touch with this music that no words can adequately explain it or do it proper justice. I can only say, listen and behold a miracle. (…).
Bruno Monteiro acquits himself with gorgeous tone and technical flair in the violin piece, and Miguel Rocha invests the cello piece with a good deal of color and character, maintaining his poise through the score’s most difficult passages.
Pianist João Paulo Santos, who gets to play in all three works on the disc, displays impressive finger work throughout and is a most responsive and sensitive chamber music partner in both the Chausson Trio and both Ysaÿe numbers.
Sometimes mysterious, at other times magical, but always miraculous, this performance of the Chausson will transport you to places you’ve never been and from which you won’t want ever to return. It deserves the most urgent recommendation.”

 

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar

“(…) As the Etcetera Web page observes, “this Trio is the first of four great chamber works left to us by Chausson.” He began work in the summer of 1881, after having learned that the composition he had submitted for the Prix de Rome had failed to win any level of the prizes being awarded. To be fair, a visit to Amazon.com will reveal that there is no shortage of different recordings of this trio. Nevertheless, as far as I can tell, this recording was my own “first contact” with Opus 3.
The Trio is followed by two duo compositions by Eugène Ysaÿe. The Opus 12 “Poème élégiaque” was composed for violin and piano. It is followed by the Opus 16 “Méditation,” originally scored for cello and orchestra and performed on this album by cello and piano. Both of these pieces are longer than ten minutes in duration, making them at bit too lengthy for encore selections. However, for those of us that know Ysaÿe primarily (if not entirely) for his Opus 27 set of six solo violin sonatas, these tracks provide two highly engaging journeys of discovery. They distinguish this album from any of the earlier recordings of the Chausson trio and are well worth the value of an encounter with Ysaÿe from a different point of view.”

 

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal

“(…) What these performances demonstrate is the great technical precision of the ensemble, combined with an impressive vision of the very different characteristics of these three works. It thus awakens the unmistakable suggestion of an idiomatic sound that inspires and - how could it be otherwise - invites repeated listening. The tempos are well chosen, the execution is alternately energetic and sensual and the contrasts are not exaggerated. They invite. Also the melancholy atmosphere in the Méditation-Poème is hit. The collaboration between these three Portuguese musicians is, in a word, exemplary.
The recording made by José Fortes is also very successful: the balance is excellent (always difficult in a trio with piano), in a perfectly dosed mixture of clarity and sound. Congratulations also on the fact that both the piano tuner and the page turner are clearly mentioned. I don't see that often!”

 

Pizzicato Magazine, Remy Franck

*****

“Ernest Chausson had failed at the Prix de Rome in May 1881. In July he went to Switzerland with his family, where his piano trio was composed. It has been said that the composition was a kind of act of defiance in response to his defeat at the Prix de Rome.
This assumption is fully confirmed in the Portuguese trio’s passionate, highly emotional interpretation. The first movement sounds truly defiant and agitated. The Scherzo is very well differentiated by the three musicians, and the movement sounds as if it questions some of what was said in the first. Lyrism and vitality are perfectly balanced here.
Chausson himself described the Andante as ‘dreamy’. Chausson’s teacher César Franck had found the movement too extended, but Chausson was confident enough of it not to change much. Just how right that was is shown in this interpretation, which alternates between melancholy, somberness, quiet confidence and powerful effervescence. In the final movement, too, Monteiro, Rocha and Santos play with great intensity and contrast, sometimes vital, sometimes sensual, showing us a more combative Chausson.
Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque for violin and piano is dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. The performance of the rhapsodic-romantic work is technically brilliant, and the Duo Monteiro-Santos balances passion and tenderness very sensitively. In the quiet parts their interpretation is touchingly interiorized and poetic.
The Méditation-Poème is also performed with great rhetoric and tension. Rocha’s cello tone is utterly seductive, his phrasing a pure joy.
And so this is a CD played by dedicated musicians with technical excellence and, above all, depth and expression, with a wide range of sonorous timbres, an unerring sense of nuance, and an unflagging inventiveness.
Sound engineer José Fortes cared for a very natural and optimally balanced sound.”

 

Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill

Finely poetic: Ernest Chausson's early Piano Trio alongside works by his contemporary, Eugene Ysaÿe

****

“(…) Chausson's Trio uses a cyclical theme in the manner of his friend and teacher, Franck. This is introduced over a rocking piano figure at the outset of the first movement. This movement is substantial (over ten minutes) yet begins in a remarkably elegiac manner before becoming faster and more turbulent. As with much later 19th century writing for piano trio, the work requires sensitive handling in the piano and this Santos does very well. Throughout there is the sense of give and take between the three and the piano never feels over done. It helps that both Monteiro and Rocha are well able to bring out their own passionate moments in a fine manner, yet each can be discreet too. This is a performance that moves between quiet sympathy and intense passion. The slow movement has a lovely transparency to the opening, with an introduction that feels quite thoughtful before we launch into the perky main section. Here the wry humour and poetic elements take us a little distance from Franck. For the opening of the slow movement, the piano has a long solo, reiterating the cyclical theme and as the other instruments join in there is a quietly intense poeticism that reminds you of Faure, even though the structure is more Franck. An example of the synthesis that Chausson brought to his music. With the finale, we bring the cyclical structure to a close with a large-scale movement that has a perky energy to its rhythmic impetus.
Throughout the performance, I enjoyed the sympathetic give and take between the players and the sense of poetry that they bring to the music. Though a large-scale romantic work, the fevered moments are kept under control and we can enjoy the poetry that we find in Chausson's smaller works.
Ysaÿe's Poeme Elegiaque is another large-scale piece, a single movement lasting nearly 15 minutes. Ysaÿe was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and musically by Wagner, but also by Chausson, Franck and Faure. The work does very much live in a similar world to the Chausson. The violin's G string is tuned down to F, giving a slightly huskier, darker sound to the piece. We have a flowing, poetic violin over a throbbing piano. This is very much free rhapsody, and whilst Santos' piano is wonderfully sensitive, the focus is on Monteiro's violin. There are moments when the piece seems to almost break its bounds, as if Ysaÿe really wanted to write a work for violin and orchestra.
Ysaÿe's sense of free rhapsody also comes across in his Mediation-Poeme, and here he emphasises things by showing the changes of metre via a single number written above the score rather than conventional time signatures. It begins in haunting and darkly poetic style, a real poetic meditation. And even when things hot up, Rocha and Santos keep that sense of free rhapsody alongside poetic meditation.
(…) I enjoyed this disc immensely, the three instrumentalists all conquer the challenges of the instrumental writing without even making a meal of it. Throughout, the three remain sensitive to the poetry of the pieces, and the trio in particular has a lovely intimate give and take between the three players.”

 

Fanfare Magazine, Colin Clarke

Five stars: A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. A superb disc on all levels

"An ideal coupling here, two composers capable of the heights of beauty. I very much enjoyed these players’ disc of Lekeu in Fanfare 43:1, back in 2019, and this is an apt sequel, both in repertoire and in performance standard.
Dating from 1881/2, Chausson’s Piano Trio in G-Minor, op. 5 blazes with a white-hot intensity. It is a joy to listen to, not least because of Bruno Monteiro’s ability to play so in tune. Cellist Miguel Rocha is an eloquent partner, while Joāo Paulo Santos's strength is to convey that intensity without ever resorting to virtuosity (the piano part sounds fiendishly difficult). The booklet annotator (Monteiro himself) is right to mention the shadow of Franck over this music, and not just in terms of the cyclic nature of the piece; and yet Chausson has his own, magical voice. We hear that voice in songful form in the contrasting moments of the second movement Scherzo. Fascinating to hear this performance, so disciplined and yet so pitch perfect to Chausson’s vocabulary. João Paulo Santos gets his chance to shine in the long cello lines of this movement, and shine he does, delivering effortless legato. As a song without words for cello and violin, this movement has few peers. It is remarkable to place this work: Chausson was only 26 years old at the time, having attended classes by both Franck and Massenet, and yet Chausson paints on such a vast canvas, and Monteiro, Rocha, and Santos relish every minute. There is no sense of hurry at all in the “Assez lent” slow movement. In contrast, the finale is marked “Animé" and it certainly trips along with a remarkably Gallic tinge. The slightly dry acoustic of the recording enables the dotted rhythms to really spring, while Santos’ way with the grander statements is perfectly scaled. This is true chamber music, through and through.
While the coupling on the excellent Trio Wanderer performance also works well (the Ravel Piano Trio, Fanfare 23;4), the move to Belgium and Eugène Ysaÿe is spectacularly thought-through, and well timed (in that a significant number of Ysaÿe releases seems to have come my way in various formats of late, not least Sherban Lupu’s amazing Ysaÿe "adventure" with the G-Minor Concerto plus some short pieces—Fanfare 45:3—plus some notable live concerts in London). If there is a flowering of interest in Ysaÿe’s music, it is most definitely to be welcomed. The Poème Élégiaque is gloriously melodious, and what a pleasure it is to hear Monteiro's throaty lower register (the G-String is tuned down to F in this piece, and the whole lower register sounds incredibly intense and poignant so that when Ysaÿe moves to middle or high register it literally feels like it is another instrument responding). The piece flows effortlessly, and while it is violin dominates (and Monteiro is every bit as accurate and expressive as he is in Chausson‘s Trio), one should not miss the subtleties Santos brings to the piano part. As the piece progresses, we move into the fiendishly difficult territory one naturally associates with Ysaÿe, and Monteiro is absolutely the equal of any challenge, be it registral or in terms of stopping. For a piece with such a title, this work is remarkably wide-ranging emotionally, and Monteiro and Santos embrace the composer’s world with supreme assurance. On Hyperion, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien offer an excellent alternative (coupling it with the Franck and Vierne Violin Sonatas and Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne), and there is no doubting the supreme Hyperion recording quality to boot; but Monteiro has a particular intensity that is compelling. It was this very piece that inspired Chausson to write his own, now much more famous, Poème for violin and orchestra, op. 25.
The Méditation-Poème that follows tightens the screw somewhat, and Rocha is magnificent, playing with the utmost dignity and sophistication, while Santos relishes his opportunities in the limelight here. The way Ysaÿe returns us to a place of tranquillity is so skilful, and with Monteiro and Rocha in charge, the listener finds a place of deep, slightly perfumed, rumination. Sanos plays with just the right vibrato, expressive without over-egging the pudding; the delicate ascending scales near the close are superbly managed, too.
A disc full of delights and surprises, of subtle shades, of revelations. Definitely one for the Wants List shortlist. A superb disc on all levels."

 

Classical Candor, John J. Puccio

“Some of you may know the work of violinist Bruno Monteiro from his record albums, others from his many personal appearances, and yet a few more from my several reviews of his previous CD’s. For those who aren’t quite familiar with him yet, let me remind you. The weekly Expresso describes him as “one of today's most renowned Portuguese musicians.” He is internationally recognized as an eminent violinist.” Fanfare says he has a “burnished golden tone” and Strad comments on his having “a generous vibrato” producing radiant colors. Music Web International refers to his interpretations as producing a “vitality and an imagination that are looking unequivocally to the future” and that reach an “almost ideal balance between the expressive and the intellectual.” Gramophone praises his “unfailing assurance and eloquence,” and Strings Magazine notes that he is “a young chamber musician of extraordinary sensitivity." So, yes, he is very, very good.

Joining Mr. Monteiro on the present album is pianist Joao Paulo Santos and cellist Miguel Rocha. Together, they make some very, very good music.

The program begins with the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in G minor, Op. 3 by French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). He wrote the piece early in his short career, while still in his mid twenties and just after studying music with Jules Massenet and Cesar Franck. Chausson did not produce an abundance of music during his brief lifetime--thirty-nine published works in all--but they were all imaginative, original, and enchanting. While he is probably best known for the Symphony in B-flat, the symphonic poem Viviane, and the Poème for violin and orchestra, his Trio is certainly another piece to be reckoned with. Indeed, it is considered by many listeners as one of Chausson’s best small-scale chamber works.

The Trio opens with a lyrical, gently rhythmic introduction before turning to a more-animated theme. The three players here maintain a strong chemistry, the violin taking the lead, with the accompanying piano and cello alternating and intertwining in cyclic variations or patterns of spirals. The performers are uniformly vibrant in their interpretation, with Monteiro’s violin an impressively solid mainstay throughout. The second movement also starts gently, then picks up a head of lighthearted steam as the instruments pursue one another around the score. It’s all quite delightful, actually, and leads into the third, slow movement. Here, it’s the piano that takes the forestage, with the violin and cello then joining in a plaintive call. It’s a lovely, poetic interlude that recalls the music of some of Chausson’s acquaintances--Massenet, Franck, and Faure in its graceful, flowing tones. It also displays the talents of Monteiro, Santos, and Rocha and their ability to smoothly meld into one. Then the Trio ends with a sprightly animated and playfully spontaneous finale that wraps up the whole work in fine fashion, the players ready to take their well-deserved bows.

Accompanying the Trio are two short pieces by one of Chausson’s contemporaries, Belgian violinist, conductor, and composer Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931). Fans called Ysaye “the king of the violin,” and, in fact, Chausson considered him to be the best interpreter of his work he’d ever heard. On the present album we have the Poeme Elegiaque for Violin and Piano, Op. 12 (later orchestrated but here done in its original form with Monteiro and Santos) and the Meditation-Poeme for Cello and Piano, Op. 16, with Rocha and Santos. They’re both sweet, enjoyable pieces, the Meditation a little more melancholy than the Elegy, and both played with a fine, delicate poise.

Producers Bruno Monteiro and Dirk De Greef and engineer Jose Fortes recorded the music at Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal in September 2021. As with most small-ensemble recordings, this one is relatively close, providing good, clear detail. Yet there is a mild hall resonance to add warmth to the sessions. As we might expect in the Violin Trio, the violin is the dominant but not overpowering sound.”

 

Rondo Magazin (Germany)

“The composer Ernest Chausson studied with Massenet and Franck and is considered an important link between the late romantic tradition of Wagnerian character and Impressionism. Composed in 1881 in Montbovon, Switzerland, his Piano Trio reveals Chausson's lyrical qualities as a composer. It is influenced by César Franck's tonal language; Franck's Piano Quintet of 1878/79 may have been a concrete model. Even then, Chausson was independent enough to create a work that can be considered one of the most elegant and beautiful piano trios of the late 19th century. The musicians Bruno Monteiro (violin), João Paulo Santos (piano) and Miguel Rocha (cello) are among the leading chamber musicians of Portugal. They interpret Chausson's work with brilliance and passion without sentimentalizing it. The two Poèmes by Ysaÿe for violin or cello and piano are a nice bonus.”

 

Cinemusical, Steven Kennedy

Recording: ****/****
Performance: ****/****

“(…) All of that is made more so with the performance here. The opening movement is given its due well, but the central movements bring out the ensemble´s interation well in the scherzo. There is much lyrical writing here as well which is beautifully performed both by Monteiro and Rocha. The phrase and articulation are matched equally well. The piano impassioned harmonic interjections add the proper energy and forward momentum.
(…) Monteiro provides a quite impassioned performance (Ysaye) with rich tone, especially in the lower registal sections. The technical demands of the piece also make this attractive. The arc of the work is also well captured here.
(…) The Meditation-Poeme for cello and piano, Op.16 will be another delightful discovery for people unifamiliar with Ysaye´s music and makes for an interesting comparison to his other earlier work. Again, the harmonic palette is most striking here with its flirtations with a sort of impressionist-romantic blend of sound.
For those you enjoy exploring rare chamber music, this release will be well worth seeking out especially for the rarer Ysaye. An interesting pairing that works well to introduce listeners to two important composers from this era of French/Belgian music.”

 

Musicweb International, Jonathan Woolf

A hothouse Franco-Belgian programme astutely programmed and beautifully performed

“This is an astutely programmed disc that draws on connections and nuances between Chausson and his slightly younger contemporary Ysaÿe – who famously premièred the Poème - both of them devotees of Franck. It was Franck who tutored the young Chausson, and certainly there are strong imprints of the older man’s cyclical procedure and hothouse atmospherics in Chausson’s 33-minute Trio.

This is a work, long ignored for decades, that has increasingly received recordings. Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello) and pianist João Paulo Santos form a formidable trio and marry long-term structural goals with moments of expressive piquancy to generate the necessary dramatic light and shade in a work as youthfully intense as this. It’s noticeable that they avoid excessive tempi, such as one can find in the Trio Solisti’s effort on Bridge or in elements of the Fidelio Trio’s recording on Resonus, where both the opening movement and slow movement are pressed quite hard – at least in relation to the Etcetera team’s performance. By contrast the Portuguese trio convey the fluidity of the first movement’s dramatic peaks and troughs through wistful and assured exchanges and a sculptural firmness that repays repeated listening. The slow movement’s Scherzo gains through fine control of momentum and mood, Bruno Monteiro floating his tone with admirable refinement, Miguel Rocha matching him in sophistication of tone production, anchored by the consistent excellence of pianist João Paulo Santos. The fluctuation in expressive density of the slow movement is beautifully realised, and the elasticity of the finale’s melody lines are conveyed at a fine tempo, with playing of power and ardour, not least from the hard-working pianist.

The two selected works by Ysaÿe act as fine commentaries in themselves on the bigger and more emotively outgoing Chausson Trio. Both, in fact, were later to be orchestrated for string soloist and orchestra in which form they have often been encountered on disc. In the Poème Élégiaque, the violinist’s G string is tuned to F, which vests it with a dusky, melancholic quality. Not only does it emphasise the mournful qualities of the music but it also sounds positively viola-like in places. It was his first tone poem and evokes the Lekeu-like, Wagnerian plangency of the fin-de-siecle Belgian school to which Monteiro responds with fulsome instrumental address. Both he and Santos prove adroit in the expressive potential of the music, lightening the mood when required or darkening and deepening the twilit atmosphere in a notably balanced reading. A competing version, though very differently coupled – Vierne, Franck and Lili Boulanger - is on Hyperion, finely played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (review). For the orchestrated version, you have the Fuga Libera box (FUG758), where it’s played by Tedi Papavrami (review) or the CPO 777 051-2 (review), to cite just two examples.

Méditation-Poème can also be found in that Fuga Libera box, where it’s played by Gary Hoffman. It shows Ysaÿe’s command of the rhapsodic but also his employment of the chromatic, ripely coloured, that enriches the music rather than stifling or throttling it. Too astute and shrewd an executant-composer for that, Ysaÿe gives the cellist some eloquent lines to spin, to which Miguel Rocha responds with ardour, splendidly matched by João Paulo Santos.

This programme gives numerous opportunities for individual and collective strengths and comes with notes from the violinist and an excellent recording supervised by José Fortes. The hothouse is in good hands in this release.”

 

Cultuurpakt, Veerle Deknopper

CHAUSSON – AN INTIMATE PAINTED PORTRAIT

“Bruno Monteiro knows how to handle things. Whenever the Portuguese violinist releases a new album, the dynamics in his performance speak volumes. Energetic, proud and sincere, something you want to wake up to and that positively influences your mood during the day. This time he managed to surprise us with music by Ernest Chausson and Eugène Ysaÿe. A permanent companion of music is the pianist João Paulo Santos and this time also the cellist Miguel Rocha. A Belgian label – Et'cetera – and also a Belgian composer. Beautiful!

Ernst Chausson (1855-1899) grew up in a loving Parisian family, where music did not play the main role. Still, a teacher gave him a love for the Fine Arts and he soon couldn't choose between music or literature. Ultimately, it was music that gained when he began studying piano at fifteen, despite being also very talented as a painter. He may have started out in law school, but he ended up at the Paris Conservatoire. He composed works for piano and chamber music, orchestral works and opera. The connection with the virtuoso Belgian violinist Ysaÿe? Ysaÿe premiered her Poème for violin and orchestra in 1896.

Chausson was known as a shy personality who had a great love for beauty and nature. He liked to be surrounded by artists from all kinds of fields, such as Monet and Duparc.
His trio for piano, violin and cello in G minor opus 3 opens this CD and can surely be considered one of the most beautiful pieces of the late 19th century period, despite the work being received coldly by the Société Nationale de Musique. It was not published posthumously until 1919.

The nice thing is that you can hear all these dynamics, as if you were diving into a painting. Tone colors are heard and even a little pointillism is allowed on a dreamy background. As if feeling the energy of that cultural period.

Ysaÿe started her career at a very young age. He made his public debut at the age of seven and studied at the Brussels Conservatory with Wieniawski and later in Paris with Henri Vieuxtemps. He was known for his beautiful vibrato, romantic tics and warm sounds. In addition to his most famous works, he also wrote two musical poems that you can hear here. The rather somber Poème Élégiaque was dedicated to Gabriel Fauré. This is exactly what challenged Chausson to write his own Poème. The Méditaton-Poème was written in 1910 but not published until 1921. The violinist-composer always wanted to make sure that only the best would be published. The work was dedicated to the cellist Fernand Pollain and has a rhapsodic character.

This album addresses music that may not be known to the masses, but that is very much worth putting on the map and being tasted and appreciated.”


 

Doctorjohn Cheptubeaudio

“ (…) And, as a fan of Chausson, I marveled at the Portugese violinist Bruno Monteiro, who led a Trio that excelled in Chausson and Ysaye (EtCetera). For the same label, Monteiro has several excellent albums.”

https://cheaptubeaudio.blogspot.com/2022/09/streaming-classical.html