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Guillaume LEKEU (1870 – 1894)
Piano Trio in C minor (1891) [40:47]
Arthur de GREEF (1862 – 1940)
Piano Trio in F minor (1935) [20:55]
Narziss und Goldmund Piano Trio (Wietse Beels, violin; Mieke De Lauré, cello; Piet Kuijken, piano)
rec. Academiezaal, Sint Truiden, July 2005
PHAEDRA 92046 [61:43]


Guillaume Lekeu’s untimely death at the age of 24 was a tragic loss for music in general and for Belgian music in particular. At the time of his death, he had showed himself much more than a promising young composer; and his considerable output, of which the Violin Sonata dedicated to Eugène Ysaÿe, the Piano Quartet and Fantaisie sur deux Airs Populaires Angevins are only the tip of the iceberg. Most other works remained little heard, if at all, until the Belgian label Ricercar released several discs that not only revealed the breadth of his output but also the highly accomplished quality of the music (see below).
 
The substantial Piano Trio in C minor is an ambitious piece of music displaying the young composer’s formal mastery and strongly individual voice. The music may still be indebted to Franck; but Lekeu’s warmly melodic writing and harmonic world are entirely his own. As some other composers from “la bande à Franck”, Lekeu managed to steer clear of the all-too-obvious influence of his teacher, while remaining true to cyclic form. The composer seemed to have been dissatisfied with his piano trio, which he found “much, much too long” and full of “unspeakable horrors”. This severe verdict says much for Lekeu’s uncompromising, self-critical attitude towards his music. These reservations are rapidly washed away when listening to this imposing and generous work full of passion, heartfelt lyricism, sincere feeling and expressive strength. It is in four sizeable movements: Lent-Allegro with forceful contrapuntal and fugal writing, an impassioned Très lent, a shorter, at times strongly articulated Scherzo with a more lyrical central section, and a final movement in arch-form Lent-Animé-Lent of great beauty, achieving – at long last – an appeased reconciliation.
 
Arthur de Greef, a pupil of Franz Liszt, made quite a reputation as a brilliant pianist and a fine performer of the music of his time. Grieg regarded him as one of the finest performers of his music. De Greef actually recorded Grieg’s Piano Concerto, if I am not mistaken. He also composed a good deal of music including two piano concertos (Marco Polo 8.223810), songs, piano pieces and chamber music. As a composer, de Greef remained faithful to romantic ideals, favouring pure lyricism. His scores abound with indications such as Dolce cantando e molto espressivo or Ben cantando. No wonder, too, that de Greef composed some nicely romantic songs.
 
De Greef’s Piano Trio in F minor is quite close stylistically to Lekeu’s trio written some forty years earlier. The outer movements, both warmly lyrical and full of élan, frame a beautifully peaceful and meditative Andante. It may be hard to accept that this lushly romantic piece was written in 1935; but there is no denying its expressive strength and generosity.
 
The young players of the Narziss und Goldmund Piano Trio - they are all in their early thirties, though with some impressive curriculum vitae - play with all their heart. They obviously relish every ounce of this richly lyrical and expressive music. The recording is very fine, although – I suspect – a bit too close for some tastes. A very fine release that may be safely recommended to all those who want to know more about Lekeu’s music and those who enjoy warmly expressive, late-romantic music.
 
Hubert Culot
 

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Reviews of other works of Lekeu on Musicweb
Violin sonata
Adagio for strings
Piano quartet
Cello sonata & Three pieces for piano

 


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