* “Profanes et Sacrées” – 20th Century French Chamber Music – Boston Symphony Chamber Players – BSO Classics

by | Nov 29, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

* “Profanes et Sacrées” – 20th Century French Chamber Music – RAVEL: Introduction and Allegro; TOMASI: Cinq Danses profanes et sacrées; DUTILLEUX: Les Citations; DEBUSSY: Sonata for flute, viola & harp; FRANCAIX: Dixtuor – Boston Symphony Chamber Players – BSO Classics multichannel SACD 1102, 76:10 *****: 
The previous SACD from the Boston Symphony Chamber Players was a collection of chamber music for winds and strings by Mozart.  The ten members of the Chamber Players are joined here by the principal harpist from the BSO: Jessica Zhou, plus the symphony’s timpanist: Timothy Genis, plus harpsichordist Mark Kroll. It is satisfying that in common with most of the independent labels that have been started by symphony orchestras around the world who had been dropped by their major record labels, the Boston Symphony musicians are issuing their releases on multichannel SACD. It’s an interesting retort to those major labels (and some smaller ones) who gave up on SACD.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has long been known for its performances of the French orchestral repertory, so a program built around French music for chamber ensemble is a perfect choice here. The main stimulus was the musicians’ desire to record the work by Henri Dutilleux: Les Citations, because the BSO has championed his works for many years. They decided to bring together for one album a variety of French chamber works using different groups of players. The Ravel and Debussy selections are probably the best known here. The opening Ravel Introduction and Allegro is unusual in its choice of instruments: harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet. The harp is placed front and center thruout the work, in a sort of solo-with-accompaniment situation. Debussy’s Trio was his last completed work prior to his death. Its second Interlude movement seems to employ an unidentified invented folk music influence.
Dutilleux’s Les Citations is a two-movement diptych, and again is for an unusual group of instruments: oboe, harpsichord, doublebass and percussion. It was written for performance at the 1985 Aldeburgh Festival and for the 75th birthday of tenor Peter Pears, who had co-founded the Festival with Benjamin Britten. There are quotations from both a Janequin choral work and from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, in which Pears had the main role.  The Tomasi Danses are all short and five in number, written for wind quintet. The closing Francaix Dixtuor is a sparkling four-movement work for wind quintet plus string quintet. It has the relaxed air of Mozart’s serenades and divertimenti, although the second movement sounds more melancholy.
The recording was not made in Boston’s Symphony Hall but in a smaller auditorium in Worcester, MA. The players are spread out in a horseshoe sort of spatial layout, unlike some more front-stage-centered surround sound SACDs of chamber works. Fidelity is superb in the 5.0 option.
—John Sunier

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