Félicien David (1810-1876) is not to be confused with his near-exact contemporary, German violinist and composer Ferdinand David (1810-1873)… and the other way around. Félicien was French, an adept of “Saint-Simonisme” (the French socialism much in vogue in the 1830s) and during his life best known for introducting a North-African and Middle-East-inspired exoticism (the so-called “Orientalism”) to choral and opera music (he had made a long journey to these regions from 1833 to 1835), paving the way for Delibe’s Lakmé, Bizet’s Djamileh, Gounod’s La Reine de Saba and Lalo’s Namouna.
But his three piano trios and other chamber music are very beautiful, evoking similar works of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, and proving once again that “minor” Romantic composers were capable of composing chamber works that were not strikingly inferior to those from the “major” composers. It is said that David and Berlioz (seven years his elder) held each-other in high esteem, and in 1869 David succeded Berlioz as librarian of the Paris Conservatoire although, like his predecessor, he doesn’t seem to have devoted much attention to the task. But it’s another figure of French romantic music that comes to mind listening to David’s trios: the “Berlioz of the piano”, Charles-Valentin Alkan, also the composer of a superb piano trio, besides two sonatas for Violin-Piano and Cello-Piano, and the comparison seems all the more appropriate as Alkan was born only three years after David (1813-1888).
Félicien David: Piano Trios Nos. 2 & 3. Eszter Perenyi, Tibor Parkanyi, Ilona Prunyi. Marco Polo 8.223492 (1993), Naxos Patrimoine 8.55083 (1993)
Félicien David: “Le Souvenir” (Trio No. 1, 3rd Quartet, “Le Souvenir” and “Le Caprice” for cello and piano, “Pensée” and “Absence” for piano, three arrangements from David’s operas “Lalla-Roukh” for piano, “Herculanum” and “La Nuit” from Ode-Symphonie “Le Désert” for cello and piano). Jean-Jacques Dünki, Andrés Gabetta, Christophe Coin, Quatuor Mosaïques. Laborie LC12 (2011)
There’s more chamber music of David that I don’t yet have, excerpts from his 24 String Quintets arranged in a cycle called “Les Quatre Saisons”, on the same label Laborie, LC11, barcode 0810473010075, and his strings quartets Nos. 1, 2 & 4 by the Cambini Quartet on Naïve-Ambroisie AM 206, barcode 822186002063