I owe a great deal
to this French trio, both collectively and individually. Dumay
has entranced me time without number in concert and on disc
and Collard’s set of Fauré’s piano music in red gatefold LPs
will have to be prised out of my cold dead fingers before I
part with them. I remember with pleasure a few years ago his
sepulchrally tall figure substituting for an ailing colleague
in a Rachmaninoff concerto. Of the three musicians Frédéric
Lodéon is the least well known, and also the least well travelled,
but he is a consummate chamber player and a most eloquent musician.
So I owe them a
great deal and I was expecting a lot from them, in a Schubert
set of theirs that I’ve never heard before. It’s been around
even in twofer form because many of these Geminis were available
previously in Double Forte incarnation. And I was expecting
them to appeal strongly in the B flat trio in particular, perhaps
to stand in that great tradition stretching back to the recordings
made by Cortot, Casals and Thibaud, another “French” trio, if
one accepts one Frenchman, a Catalan and a French speaking Swiss
as a French trio.
were dashed and I was interested to read in his review that
Tony Haywood experienced similar frustrations. Part of the problem
resides in the glassy recording, one that becomes increasingly
wearing as the recordings progress. But it really only accentuates
some inherent stylistic problems in the performances themselves.
The trio strives to present the works as youthful chariots of
inspiration, though ones naturally written so soon before Schubert’s
death. The impression however remains one of a certain casual
and unaffectionate coolness. Whereas with the Cortot-Casals-Thibaud
recording every tempo and every tempo relation and every transition
sounded just right – unaffectedly and sympathetically right
– here D.898 sounds briskly matter of fact, with phrasing that
sounds forced rather than natural.
I’m afraid the same
kind of non-committal playing attends the companion trio. I
don’t even think that Collard is at all flattered by the engineering
in the E flat. He’s just that bit too forward in the sound-stage
and he really does set quite a fast tempo for the opening movement.
Clarity and articulation don’t actually suffer even at this
speed – these musicians are too deft and experienced to fail
in that respect – but in their eagerness to banish sentiment
they rather glide over the surface.
Similarly with the
Notturno, we have a surfeit of the public and too little
of the private in a performance that fails to grip. Dumay and
Collard join forces for the Sonatensatz and the Grand
Duo. There’s plenty of finely phrased playing from both men
even if Dumay’s tone is hampered by the brightness of the recording,
which accentuates harsh forte playing. Since this is something
I seldom if ever associate with him it’s best to blame the Paris
studio set up or subsequent engineering work.
Even at this price
range there are plenty of worthwhile alternatives. For an example
of how the first trio should go, even without all repeats, that
talismanic Cortot-Casals-Thibaud recording stands as a rich
reproof on Naxos. The Trio di Trieste’s recording of both trios
is in a DG box – five CDs admittedly but at a tempting price
and with much else. The Beaux Arts are also recommendable in
a Philips Duo in its – to me – preferred Guilet-Greenhouse-Pressler
incarnation. If you get Philips 438700 you’ll get the trios,
the Notturno and the Trios for Strings D471 and 581 played by
a group led by Arthur Grumaiux.
see also Review
by Tony Haywood