The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: A superbly played collection of French duos and trios
Musicians: Shaham–Erez–Wallfisch Trio
Composer: Ravel, Debussy, Fauré

This delightful tranche of French chamber music opens with an exquisite account of Ravel’s 1914 Piano Trio. The first movement is delicate and precious, the staccato of the ‘Pantoum’ second movement is bone dry, punctuated with lush outbursts, the Passacaille is bleak and inexorable, and the finale builds to impressive grandeur. It’s a wonderful performance, and each movement in its way is a masterclass in pace and fluid structure. It is already a hard act to follow.

The opening of Debussy’s Cello Sonata is unsettling and emotionally eloquent – Raphael Wallfisch opens up a private world, with Arnon Erez in discreet support (Erez is superb throughout). He navigates Debussy’s mercurial mood swings, his excursions into the grotesque and the ecstatic, with narrative flair, at once suave and intimate. In the Violin Sonata, Hagai Shaham produces clean, unfussy playing, cool but seductive. The second movement trips along happily, with many a sly portamento to balance the dry eccentricities, and the finale has a kind of debonair authority, straightforward and ebullient.

Together again, the players capture the strange landscape of Fauré’s Piano Trio, with its strong musical purpose and other-worldliness. The slow movement is sublime, the finale robust and energetic. The recorded balance between the players in all their various formations is exemplary.

Clip: Debussy: Cello Sonata – opening