Chausson : Concerto for Solo Violin and Piano Quintet

Concerto for Solo Violin, Piano and String Quartet in D major, Op. 21 : IV : Tres Anime

Soovin Kim (solo violin), Jeremy Denk (piano), Jupiter String Quartet

PDF score here!

One of the greatest hidden gems of the chamber music repertoire. It is rarely played in concert halls, which is quite a shame considering how beautiful a piece it is. Essentially, its a concerto for solo violin with the string quartet and piano providing the role of the orchestra, though structurally it feels much more like a 19th century piano quintet (ie. Schubert, Schumann, Brahms). However, it is distinctly French, with its unique choices in harmonic coloring and melodic contour…not to mention its outstandingly orchestrated.

Eugene Ysaÿe was at the reigns as the soloist when the work first premiered and the audience’s applause was so strong that it surprised Chausson enough that he wrote “Never have I had such great success”. Funny enough…the original pianist bailed on playing the piece because he thought the part was “unplayable”. Check the score (link at top) to see why.

Moments to listen for : 

-The end of the third movement…very few things are as haunting as the last measures of this movement. The grave marking is certainly appropriate.

-Good luck finding the meter in many sections of the last movement. Syncopation is certainly king here and when things build into the coda and take off at the end (at around 8:00), the drive to the finish is exhilarating.

The problem for those who haven’t had a chance to either perform the work or hear it performed…finding a good recording can be difficult. So much finesse is required by the ensemble to strike a balance between the graceful soaring melodies, sharp rhythmic drive, free passages and the constantly shifting chromaticism…many recordings seem to feel slow and like the life has been sucked from them.

Which brings me to Jupiter String Quartet’s recording. For those of you who have a Naxos account (many universities provide them for their school music departments…check out if your school has an account) you can listen to it there or spend $10 on iTunes. iTunes does that silly “album only” thing with two of the tracks from it so you have to buy the whole cd…but the Fauré violin sonata is the other work on the CD and it doesn’t disappoint. JSQ+Denk manage to walk the fine line between velvety smooth lyrical passages and forward drive that provide an aurally stunning ride from start to finish. If you buy one classical CD this month, this one should be it. You won’t regret it.