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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Piano Trio No.2 in D minor, H327 (1950) [15:07]
Piano Trio No.3 in C major, H332 (1951) [20:02]
Cinq pièces brèves (Piano Trio No.1), H193 (1930) [11:51]
Duo No. 2 for violin and cello, H371 (1958) [11:37]
Angell Trio
rec. 22-24 October 1998, Studio 2, Bavarian Radio, Munich, Germany. DDD

Resonance has a reputation for issuing recordings of interesting works that lie at the edge of the mainstream, in addition to more standard repertoire. Performed by the London-based Angell Trio this recording contains works that span the last thirty years of Martinu’s life. They were recorded at Bavarian Radio and it seems that these recordings have been issued previously on ASV Quicksilva in 1999.
It is widely known that Martinů was a prolific composer. He was extremely active in the field of chamber music and especially productive with works that featured the cello. According to the booklet notes he also composed nine works for trio that contained a piano part. Of these works four could be described as containing the standard instrumentation of piano, violin and cello. There are three numbered Piano trios plus a fourth from 1939 known as the Bergerettes which is not included here.
The Piano trio No.1 was completed in 1930 taking just a couple of days. There are noticeable traces of the composer’s developing neo-classical approach including his neo-baroque style. The five movement score was awarded a chamber music prize and also won the approval of Stravinsky.     
Swiftly composed in 1950 in New York the three movement Piano Trio No.2 was premiered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The No.3 was also composed in New York a year later for the influential Leopold Mannes. It is cast in three substantial movements.
Martinů composed his Duo No. 2 in 1958 in Switzerland just over a year before he died. A shortish score in three movements the music is less aggressive in character than his first Duo from thirty years earlier.   
The Angell Trio prove themselves a highly proficient ensemble with an excellent unity and seem particularly suited to these scores. In the Five Short Pieces their energy and drive in the opening allegro is impressive and they convincingly convey a bleak and icy character in the adagio. I enjoyed their spiky, machine-like rhythms, fused with the jazzy episodes of the concluding movement. In the Piano trio No.2 their interpretation is robust in the probing and bristly rhythms of the allegro moderato and then drops effortlessly away to a mere whisper. They provide a tender reading of the andante supplying an unrelenting drive of forward propulsion in the closing allegro.
The markedly contrasting moods of the Piano Trio No.3 are interpreted with an impressive steadfastness. The players bring a desolate almost sinister feel to the andante and the high spirits of the closing allegro are conveyed with buoyancy and panache. In the Duo No. 2 the varying character of the opening movement is convincingly interpreted and the adagio is played with yearning reflectivity. Their interpretation of the closing movement poco allegro is rather tentative and I yearned for increased weight and bite.
There are surprisingly few recordings of these Piano trios in the catalogues which is surprising against the background of the quality of these scores. These are excellent performances and when combined with the clear and well balanced sound quality the disc makes a welcome reappearance. 
Michael Cookson


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