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Guillaume LEKEU (1870-1894)
Piano Trio in C minor (1891)
Piano Quartet (Unfinished. Second movement completed by DíINDY)*
Spiller Trio
Albert Lysy (viola)*
Recorded Studio 2, Bavarian Radio, May 1999 (Trio) and March 1992 (Quartet)
ARTS 47567-2 [69.54]


Lekeuís Trio is something of a masterpiece. Itís a big, passionate, surging work lasting a full forty minutes or so. Maybe, coldly, revision might make it more programmable in concert. You could really only put it after the interval but on disc this isnít a problem. And on disc, on this disc, the work stands revealed, once again, as the tumultuous Beethovenian thunderclap that it so assuredly is. The Spiller Trio throw themselves into it and their abandon is infectious. Tempestuous and eventful they lasso the moments of fugal academism. There are two such moments and they can sound incongruous Ė here they serve to intensify the expressive argument still further, as intended. The long and moving piano passage that opens the slow movement discloses the Franckian lineage, as do the recurring, cyclical motifs that give so much compact and cumulative force to the Trio. However thereís real tensile strength in the Scherzo. Here the impressionist fervour is at its apex and the fugue sounds nobly embedded into the fabric. The most specific example of Lekeuís absorption of Beethoven (whom he revered) is in the mysterious Lent section of the Finale. This is almost Ghost Trio-like or reminiscent indeed of a slow introduction in one of the last quartets. Emotionally and formally itís perfectly balanced by the grave conclusion, a feature of Lekeuís writing that is so powerful a component of his expressive argument. Maybe the recording imparts a bit of a boom to the pianoís tone, especially in the bass, but otherwise this is a splendid traversal by these committed and adroit players.

Itís coupled with the unfinished Piano Quartet, the second movement of which was finished for performance by díIndy. Here the trio is joined by the great Albert Lysy. Thereís a bigger acoustic spread in this performance, which was taped seven years earlier than the Trio. Itís also rather more of a diffuse torso but still compelling in its imaginative sweep and in the gorgeous, surging generosity of its lyricism. The dialogue between violin, viola and cello over a chording piano is one of the highpoints of the first movement and the second is redolent of high Romanticism at its most affecting.

Both these have obviously been recorded before. In fact the Quartet was even on a late Decca 78 set. The Monnaie Piano Trio play the C minor trio on Schwann (unheard by me) and thereís a Harmonia Mundi recording of the Piano Quartet by the Ensemble Musique Oblique and both have more Lekeu. But this coupling is, I believe, unique - an Arcobaleno release that also offered them is now out of print. Given the powerful performances and very reasonable cost, very strongly recommended.

Jonathan Woolf

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