Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
Piano Trio in G minor, Op 3 (1881)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Poème Élégiaque, Op 12 (1892-93)
Méditation-Poème, Op 16 (1913)
Bruno Monteiro (violin); Miguel Rocha (cello); João Paulo Santos (piano)
rec. 2021, Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal
ETCETERA KTC1729 
This is an astutely programmed disc that draws on connections and nuances between Chausson and his slightly younger contemporary Ysaÿe – who famously premièred the Poème - both of them devotees of Franck. It was Franck who tutored the young Chausson, and certainly there are strong imprints of the older man’s cyclical procedure and hothouse atmospherics in Chausson’s 33-minute Trio.
This is a work, long ignored for decades, that has increasingly received recordings. Bruno Monteiro (violin), Miguel Rocha (cello) and pianist João Paulo Santos form a formidable trio and marry long-term structural goals with moments of expressive piquancy to generate the necessary dramatic light and shade in a work as youthfully intense as this. It’s noticeable that they avoid excessive tempi, such as one can find in the Trio Solisti’s effort on Bridge or in elements of the Fidelio Trio’s recording on Resonus, where both the opening movement and slow movement are pressed quite hard – at least in relation to the Etcetera team’s performance. By contrast the Portuguese trio convey the fluidity of the first movement’s dramatic peaks and troughs through wistful and assured exchanges and a sculptural firmness that repays repeated listening. The slow movement’s Scherzo gains through fine control of momentum and mood, Bruno Monteiro floating his tone with admirable refinement, Miguel Rocha matching him in sophistication of tone production, anchored by the consistent excellence of pianist João Paulo Santos. The fluctuation in expressive density of the slow movement is beautifully realised, and the elasticity of the finale’s melody lines are conveyed at a fine tempo, with playing of power and ardour, not least from the hard-working pianist.
The two selected works by Ysaÿe act as fine commentaries in themselves on the bigger and more emotively outgoing Chausson Trio. Both, in fact, were later to be orchestrated for string soloist and orchestra in which form they have often been encountered on disc. In the Poème Élégiaque, the violinist’s G string is tuned to F, which vests it with a dusky, melancholic quality. Not only does it emphasise the mournful qualities of the music but it also sounds positively viola-like in places. It was his first tone poem and evokes the Lekeu-like, Wagnerian plangency of the fin-de-siecle Belgian school to which Monteiro responds with fulsome instrumental address. Both he and Santos prove adroit in the expressive potential of the music, lightening the mood when required or darkening and deepening the twilit atmosphere in a notably balanced reading. A competing version, though very differently coupled – Vierne, Franck and Lili Boulanger - is on Hyperion, finely played by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (review). For the orchestrated version, you have the Fuga Libera box (FUG758), where it’s played by Tedi Papavrami (review) or the CPO 777 051-2 (review), to cite just two examples.
Méditation-Poème can also be found in that Fuga Libera box, where it’s played by Gary Hoffman. It shows Ysaÿe’s command of the rhapsodic but also his employment of the chromatic, ripely coloured, that enriches the music rather than stifling or throttling it. Too astute and shrewd an executant-composer for that, Ysaÿe gives the cellist some eloquent lines to spin, to which Miguel Rocha responds with ardour, splendidly matched by João Paulo Santos.
This programme gives numerous opportunities for individual and collective strengths and comes with notes from the violinist and an excellent recording supervised by José Fortes. The hothouse is in good hands in this release.