> TURINA Piano Trios 8555870 [TB] [RBr]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Piano Trios (complete)
Trio No. 1 in D major, Opus 35
Trio No. 2 in B minor, Opus 76
Circulo, Opus 91
Trio in F major

Trio Arbós
Rec 26-29 July, 2000, Auditorio Joaquín Rodrigo, Madrid
NAXOS 8.555870 [73.17]


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Joaquín Turina was one of the major figures in Spanish music of the 20th century, but relatively little of his substantial output has achieved international currency. Yet each time one hears his music, one asks the same question: why is this not better known? These piano trios, while not all masterpieces, reveal his command of chamber music.

The earliest of the four pieces, the unpublished Trio of 1904, receives its first recorded performance here. Although it is the longest piece on the programme, it is the least interesting, leaving the listener with the feeling that the composer's evolving technique was having the upper hand in dominating the level of inspiration.

However, it is a different story in the more tightly argued pair of trios from 1926 and 1933, and the Fantasy composed in 1936 and entitled Circulo. This deals with imageries associated with different times of the day (dawn, noon and twilight), and most imaginative it is too. The clear, ambient recording and the skilful playing of the Trio Arbós ensure a most pleasing impression.

The Trios Nos. 1 and 2 are more concerned with classical proportions and schemes. Each of these fine works has its own personality, and each uses the trio combination with imagination, verve and virtuosity. The music is always fluent but never short of character, and with committed playing and good recorded sound at the bargain Naxos price, this disc can be warmly recommended.

Terry Barfoot

Roy Brewer has also listened to this disc

First a small niggle: on the CD case Turina’s music is described as "largely nationalist in style". Well, he certainly composed Spanish-sounding music, as did his Iberian contemporaries; but Turina was in many respects more cosmopolitan than any of them. Here the picture postcard Spain of Albéniz and Granados is replaced by deeper sources of inspiration. Turina trained in Seville, Madrid and at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where he studied with Vincent d’Indy. He was the only notable Spanish composer of his time to write a symphony, and a friend of several eminent French composers.

Indeed, in places the Trios can sound more French than Spanish, and their impressionistic harmony more reminiscent of Ravel than Seville (No. 2, Op. 76 for example) – and even of Poulenc, in parts of Circulo …. Admittedly a fair amount of music with a Spanish flavour was written by French composers, among them Bizet, Lalo, Debussy and Ravel, but Turina reaches more searchingly into the essentially melancholic elements of the Spanish temperament. There we encounter an older, darker, more secret Spain, as in the troubled first movement of No. 1, Op. 35 and the following a set of variations on a slow theme where ghostly dance rhythms – among them the Habanera, Canarios and Pavane – lurk in the shadows.

The most interesting, and in some respects most satisfying, work on this disc, Circulo … , is the latest (1936). Turina called his piano trio Op, 91 a Fantasy, possibly to avoid academic criticism, since it is descriptive and not in classical sonata form. The titles of the three movements – Amanecer, Mediodía and Crepúsculo – reflect changing moods from dawn to dusk, though the melodic and harmonic texture is predominantly abstract rather than pictorial in any natural way. From a sombre dawn, hymned by the cello, to a Spanish dance rhythm for noon and a tranquil evening this sequence, used by many composers, is completely free of cliché and representative of the evocative, inward-looking nature of Turina’s chamber music.

At 45 the composer was equipped to explore with confidence the shadowy sound world which much of the music on this disc inhabits. The extrovert opening of the F major Trio (1904) (the longest on his disc and here receives its premier recording. It is a mature work, a portentous opening quickly giving way to tender reflection followed by a lively Allegro in 5/4 time, the nervous energy of which is perfectly realised by the Arbós players. The final movement falls into four contrasting sections, with Turina’s colourful canvas filled with light and shade. It is astonishing that so attractive and accessible a work has remained undiscovered by the wider musical public for almost a century.

Once again Naxos has rediscovered unfamiliar works by a nowadays unjustly neglected composer. All are well worth reviving in these excellent interpretations. I recommend listening to them separately rather than sequentially so that their subtly blended individual characteristics can be savoured.

Roy D. Brewer


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