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Jean FRANCAIX (1912-1997)
String Trio No. 1 (1933) [12’38].
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)

String Trio No. 2, H238 (1934) [15’04].
Ernő DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)

Serenade in C, Op. 10 (1902) [20’00].
Trio Sibelius (Hiroe Naba, violin; Fancois Schitt, viola; Jean-Marie Trotereau, cello).
No rec info provided. DDD
INTEGRAL CLASSIC INT221.104 [47’42]

Interesting that this is the second version of Dohnányi’s Serenade, Op. 10 to come my way recently (see my review of Spectrum Concerts Berlin on Naxos 8.557153). Interesting, also, that both this Integral Classic disc and the Naxos disc have playing times of 47’42 and 50’12 respectively. Perhaps he should be known as Ernő ‘fifty minutes’ Dohnányi. In all seriousness, this low playing time seems terribly unfair, particularly as this new release seems to retail at around full price (at least the Naxos is only a fiver).

Curiously, the presentation is the lesser on the more expensive disc. Poorly proof-read and brief booklet notes hardly help; neither does the absence of recording information. No catalogue number is given for the Martinů Trio, nor is the date of composition provided (actually it is Trio No. 2, but No. 1 is lost). There is no clue as to date and venue of recording either. All of this is a pity, as there is much pleasure to be gleaned from this programme.

Whether the note-writer’s description of Dohnányi’s music as ‘a sort of mix of Schubert, Brahms and the Gypsies’ fits the aural evidence is up for discussion. Certainly the Trio Sibelius is more attuned to the dance elements in this piece than Spectrum Concerts Berlin. They get closer to the joie de vivre of the last movement (without quite getting there in the final analysis, alas) and they are very intimate in the Theme and Variations, where concentration and intensity are set to maximum. They are relaxed yet expressive in the Romanza, and project the impassioned contrasting element better than their Naxos-based rivals. As to the Marcia first movement, they are almost balletic, less determined than Spectrum Concerts Berlin. It is only in the Scherzo that the Naxos account wins out by a clear lead. Trio Sibelius provides an angular account and is virtuosic (appropriately enough), but Spectrum Concerts Berlin is distinctly more shadowy and ‘inside’ the music.

Swings and roundabouts between these two accounts, therefore. If you want an all-Dohnányi, disc, stick with Naxos for the Sextet, Op. 37 of 1935. Otherwise the present coupling of Francaix and Martinů works very well indeed.

The two-movement Martinů Trio is a wonderful piece. The first movement is quite acerbic, the Trio Sibelius making the most of the expressive opportunities. The Poco moderato second movement contains elements of a Czech homesickness à la Dvořák. Very much recommended.

Finally, Jean Françaix’s Trio No. 1 is immediately French in ethos: sophisticated yet clearly delineated, clear and jovial. The second movement Scherzo is positively carnivalesque, vividly evoking the commedia dell’arte. The hushed Andante provides a foil for the ‘Rondo vivo’, with its party atmosphere. This is joyous, infectious music whose spiky harmonies can hardly fail to delight.

The recording is more than acceptable, possessing an affecting warmth. An enjoyable disc, despite the low playing time.

Colin Clarke



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