JWR Articles: CD - Aquarelles (Featured performers: Bonita Boyd, Steven Doane, Barry Snyder) - December 28, 2020
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Aquarelles

4 4
72 min.

BRIDGE 9539
Watercolours of many hues

Here’s a most welcome collection of the repertoire for flute (Bonita Boyd), cello (Steven Doane) and piano (Barry Snyder), remarkable for its excellent musicianship along with a selection of repertoire that features old friends and new.

None better than Bohuslav Martinů’s Trio, H. 300, to lift off the proceedings with energy, liveliness and most welcome sense of fun. From the get-go (“Poco allegretto”) there is an immediate feeling of three friends going about their art as equal partners. Snyder begins the “Adagio” with a delicate, haunting opening (the composer is never short on contrasts), before his colleagues enter the fray and seamlessly change roles as the expansive lines take shape. Next it’s Boyd’s turn to be “seul”, crafting a rich and dreamy soliloquy to invite the ear into “Andante-Allegretto scherzando”. And then, they’re off with excitement and purposeful busyness abounding. The episodic movement (where Doane also has a turn at “dreamy”) lives up to its billing and is playful indeed!

From impressionist Phillipe Gaubert comes Trois Aquarelles (“watercolours”—hence the CD’s title), that, necessarily paint a different landscape than Martinů’s. “Par un clair matin” (curiously not quite as well balanced) feels like a pas de deux for flute and cello, offers some welcome morsels of counterpoint and a satisfying resolution. The gently moving “Soir d’Automne”—a veritable song without words—has a decidedly pastorale feel and much-wanted harmonic excursions before arriving at its fond farewell. The concluding “Serenade” is a sprightly celebration, at times rhapsodic in scope, of all that came before. The performers toss off all of its technical and stylistic challenges with deceptive ease.

Jean-Michel Damase’s offering is a veritable Invitation to the Dance suite that must be accepted. “Prelude” overflows with pleasantness and a style that is definitely a telling hint from the three amigos as to what lies ahead. The “Rigaudon” is jam-packed with fun and delight, along with a touch of spooky (somewhere, Michel Legrand is smiling). The first “Aria” features everyone singing at will but always with discreet reserve—notably the flute/cello unisons. Wonderfully dry and forward looking is “Intermezzo” with a couple of inklings of Jacques Ibert. Brief as it is, the second “Aria” is the warm pause that refreshes. Without doubt, the highlight is “Sicilienne,” its ideally rollicking lilt, dollops of muted pizzicati and artfully rendered harmonics are a joy to behold. The finishing “Gigue” is a marvellously frothy farewell with much colour, dry lines and deft punctuation.

To conclude, it falls to Carla Maria von Weber’s Trio (1818) to add the aesthetics of Romanticism to this chamber music grouping.

Having laboured long and hard at Weber’s two concerti and concertino in my clarinet playing days, listening to Op. 63 was like saying hello to a long-lost friend. From the first measure, “Allegro moderato” revels in the drama, shifts to the major with aplomb and ushers in the return then coda to great effect. Cheers to observing the exposition repeat! “Scherzo”, in contrast, is often as dry as the Sahara Desert and very nearly coquettish. “Schäfer’s Klage” is a thoughtful, reflective lament, replete with a brief, cadenza, beautifully declaimed by Boyd. All of the performers capture the mood immediately and never waver. The dramatic coda wonderfully sums up all that came before then slips away quietly into the night. The “Finale” is another study in contrasts, at one with the times in which it was written.

It’s a disc well worth having both for the varied, textures, tones and forms and the fine, sympathetic readings provided by the artists. JWR

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