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Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Eight Pieces Op.83 (1910) [36.10]
Vincent DíINDY (1851-1931)
Trio for clarinet, cello and piano Op.29 (1888) [35.53]
Amici Ensemble
Recorded at Humbercrest United Church, Toronto, May 2003 and February 2004
NAXOS 8.557347 [72.03]



This is principally notable for díIndyís substantial four-movement Trio of 1888. It marked a new sense of direction for him which, since he was thirty-seven, was no bad thing. Itís also a piece for which he retained affection and which he used in his composition classes. Like most French composers of the time díIndy was a good pianist and he played the piano part in numerous concerts.

It begins tensely and quite tersely before opening out into resplendent sunlight lyricism, one that looks naturally to Franck but that has a certain fluid lyricism all its own and one moreover that strikes an instantly appealing note. A pity he didnít exercise rather more caution over its length however; at over fourteen minutes this first movement lacks shape. Still the scherzo (or Divertissement; Vif et animť) is laced by puckish cello pizzicati and a certain balletic grace before the zesty trio section spices the music still further with vineyard tang. The clarinet reminiscences are splendidly forlorn. In the slow movement the coiling cello melody and the dramatically rolled piano chords summon up, along with unison clarinet and cello figures, a strong profile. But itís the finale where the Franckian inheritance is at its most potent. Here díIndy recycles earlier material with a burnished and contemplative largesse, evoking sonorities Ė whether unison or solo - that are inherently attractive if very occasionally somewhat clotted in the Franckian manner. Itís good to have this trio available in a recommendable recording; there have been very few versions of this down the years and currently there are only two somewhat hard-to-find recordings available.

I write at the head of this review that this Naxos disc was notable for the díIndy but this isnít an indictment of the Amici Ensembleís Bruch so much as an acknowledgement that whereas it may be hard to programme itís seen an increasing number of new recordings. In fact itís getting to be, if not exactly a disc staple, at least a constant presence in the catalogues. The Pieces were often dismissed, or accepted grudgingly, for their easy Schumannesque lyricism. The clean textures and romantic impress certainly make for a strong contrast with the late Romantic tension of the Frenchmanís Trio. But itís in the melancholy tinge of the First or the arresting start to No.3 that Bruch really makes his mark. The Amici bring light, spruce textures to bear and in the Sixth a certain restrained nobility of expression Ė note that in the lower registral passages the clarinet is not covered by the cello as can happen if balances and dynamics are not observed.†

So whilst the díIndy remains the principal reason for consideration the Bruch receives a pleasing, quite relaxed reading. The sound quality can be a touch boomy and the notes are inclined to be sketchy but at Naxos price these are relatively minor considerations.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Christopher Fifield




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