Jean Cras (1879–1932) was a self-taught composer who spent much of his life reluctantly serving in the French navy. Despite lack of formal musical training, his compositional fluency is impressive – large-scale grandeur cast in the musical idiom of Cesar Franck, with recourse to contrapuntal passages to stiffen the texture. His relative success is reflected in the publication of his music by the major French publishing house of Durand. Moreover, since his music was individual enough to acquire Duparc as his mentor, one may well ask whether he has in fact been unjustly neglected. Initially after hearing the dramatic and compelling opening of the Cello Sonata I thought this was indeed the case. But then, as so often happens, ideas collide upon ideas and the composition quickly becomes cluttered, the route obscured.
This pattern repeated itself exactly with the relatively early Piano Trio, despite a bright buoyant Très vif movement followed by a promising fugato section in the finale. It is perhaps frustrating because taken out of context the ideas and melodies are good. But the essence is how they are treated.
For all the compositional reservations, these artists really serve full-voltage performances in an altogether pleasingly ambient recording. Passion and conviction are in abundance, and in the Largo, a quasi-rhapsody of seven minutes, the freely poetic style is matched by a gloriously intense rendition from cellist Aleksandr Khramouchin.