Ravel was in St Jean de Luz in 1914, looking across the bay to his mother's Basque town of Ciboure. Inspired by his heritage, he based the plaintive Modéré on the zortziko, a Basque dance whose 8/8 metre he divides into 3+2+3 rhythms.
Mathematical puzzles continue in Pantoum, which borrows from an ingenious Malay poetic form. Whatever precision engineering lies beneath, this is a masterpiece of heartfelt, modal beauty which expands into a climax of orchestral depth and shattering power.
A welcome return by this famous cello and piano duo. They perform German romantic works by Schumann and Brahms, and music by two English composers with strong American associations: Frank Bridge, whose support from the famous American patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge made his music international, and Rebecca Clarke, who settled in the US during the Second World War, and died in New York at the age of 93 in 1979.
How many times in music history has the ‘chamber’ been a prisoner-of-war camp? Messiaen wrote his apocalyptic vision for the forces available at Stalag 8A in Görlitz: clarinet, violin and a cello missing a string. Eventually, a piano was found.
In eight movements Messiaen explores the Book of Revelation in long, hypnotic cantilenas (the clarinet's long-breathed Abyss of the birds and cello and violin's immense Praises to Christ) and dynamically rhythmic ensembles Dance of fury.
A sensual cello melody opens this quartet, like a cat stretching out in the sun. Next, a dappled Scherzo streams along until swept into the eddy of a yearning waltz.
No wonder the voluptuous aria of the Notturno was co-opted for the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet. There's something deeply satisfying about the violin's caressing echoes of the cello's falling phrases, which become a forest of sighs with rustling textures.
From out of such mystery a Vivace emerges in a devil-may-care dance. The chemist-composer found the ideal balance between fastidious craftsmanship and exultant spontaneity.