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Donald Francis TOVEY (1875-1940)
Chamber Music - Volume 1
Piano Trio in B minor op.1 (1900) [37:40]
Piano Trio in C minor op.8 Style Tragique (1908) [27:26]
London Piano Trio
rec. 27-29 August 2007, Potton Hall Studio, Westleton, Suffolk. DDD
first recordings
TOCCATA TOCC 0068 [65:06]

Experience Classicsonline

There will be many for whom the chance of actually hearing any of Tovey’s music was restricted to acquiring a cassette copy of the Casals-Boult broadcast of the Cello Concerto. In recent years however, spearheaded by Toccata, we have been exposed to a far wider range of his music. Only weeks ago I reviewed a performance of the two-cello sonata that Tovey wrote for Casals and Suggia.

And so we now have the first volume in a Chamber Music edition, and this gives us the Opp. 1 and 8 Piano Trios. Both, despite the ministrations of the back of the jewel box (but not the booklet), date from 1895. The Op.1 Trio is a big, four movement work. The first thing that strikes one is the cogency of the musical argument. The twenty-year-old Tovey fashions a tightly bound structure and allows it full developmental possibilities. There are numerous opportunities for dialogue and unison between the two string instruments – there’s an especially felicitous example in a cantilena passage in the opening Maestoso. There’s a Trio of real charm in the Minuet – fully contrastive with the surrounding material – and a long breathed Rhapsodia as a third movement. There’s also some fugal development from around 3:30. Tovey’s Brahmsian inheritance is clear in this work, though the lovely second theme in the finale is all his own and he has the courage to end the trio quietly and reflectively.

The companion work is much smaller in scale – three movements only - and was originally written for clarinet, horn and piano. Once again the ideas are strong and the working out of them accomplished, with Tovey ensuring a constant supply of thematic material. The opening movement is stormy whilst the central one is an extensive Largo. Here is where the work’s subtitle, Style tragique, is best played out. It certainly sports a central panel of powerful drama. This second trio is a more overtly compact and emotionally expressive work, more obvious in its gestures perhaps, but no less powerful.

The performances by the London Piano Trio are thoroughly convincing in every way and the recording in Potton Hall is pretty good, though not perhaps quite as well balanced as some other performances from the same venue that I’ve heard. In any case, this is self-recommending for the new generation of Tovey admirers.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett


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