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Playing collectively for under 45 minutes, Debussy’s three late sonatas (1915-7) are awkward to programme on disc: what to combine them with? Mostly, they are issued separately in mixed-composer collections for the specific solo instrument, cello, flute or harp, violin. Perhaps that’s why there are only two rival versions currently available (according to Presto Classical’s website), one with no coupling (Saphir LVC 001008, featuring pianist Emile Naoumoff and flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, no less, in 1999), the other including the early string quartet (Accord 4723192, with Pascal Rogé at the keyboard in 2003).

Erato’s new issue trumps these by pairing the sonatas with the flute solo Syrinx (1913) – played mesmerisingly by Pahud – and the graceful, albeit fairly conventional, early piano trio (1880). The performances throughout are at the least the equal of their rivals but I have rarely heard the cello and violin sonatas played with such relish and sensitivity, Bertrand Chamayou the subtle accompanist. Of course, the most captivating performance is of the sonata for flute, viola and harp, which is as it should be. Erato’s sound is the finest, too.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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