LEON BOELLMANN - Chamber Music

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LEON BOELLMANN - Chamber Music - Trio Parnassus - Gérard Caussé (Viola) - 760623175522 - Released: June 2012 - MDG 3031755

1} Piano Trio Op. 19
2} Piano Quartet Op. 10
3} Two Trios from 'Heures mystiques'
4} Two Pieces for Cello and Piano Op. 31

French composer Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897) was, throughout his rather short life, primarily an organist and choirmaster. Organ works form the highest percentage of his creative output as a composer, and one of them in particular, the famous and admirable Suite Gothique, is probably the piece that prevented his name from falling into oblivion. It boasts an extremely lyrical and romantic Prière à Notre-Dame and ends with a rousing and powerful Toccata. It's an organ work that I myself have played many times over the years just for the utter pleasure of it.

Listening to the chamber works on this CD, you would be hard-pressed to tell that Boëllmann was an organist. Most organist-composers have a tendency to transfer the techniques involved in the playing of a pipe organ to their other non-organ compositions, and it usually shows. But not in Boëllmann's case. The fluid lines and intricate counterpoint of the music are perfectly adapted to the trio and quartet formats. For example, the Piano Trio Op. 19 opens with an appealing six note ascending motif that the composer develops and works out in every detail, seemingly without stopping to breathe along the way. It's followed by a sweeping and constantly moving slow movement. Both the Scherzo and final Allegro vivo demand pinpoint accuracy from all the players, always well balanced by a warm-hearted and passionate delivery. Innovation is always at play throughout the Piano Quartet Op. 10, which again displays a high degree of fluid and extensive linear development for an organist.

Trio Parnassus are known for unearthing overlooked works, like the chamber music of Niels Wilhelm Gade (reviewed here), or Benjamin Godard (reviewed here), and affording them the same attention and respect otherwise reserved for the old standards. They prove once again, within this MDG recording of the chamber music of Léon Boëllmann, that pushing beyond the status quo can indeed reap rewards and expand everyone's musical horizon.

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2012