The current exploration
of de Bériot’s Violin Concertos
on Naxos is one that should prove of
interest to those intrigued by the fusion
of bel canto lyricism and Paganinian
fireworks embodied by these works. Somewhat
lower down the hierarchy perhaps are
the chamber works and whilst they have
never been entirely neglected, they
are certainly not popular and even the
more assiduous collector of mid-nineteenth
century piano trios – in this case –
may be hard pressed to have heard a
concert performance or put his hands
on a recording.
To this end this latest
release may fill a need. Let’s take
the Op.58 trio written around 1847.
It starts with a noble introduction,
and then explores more obviously and
generously lyric themes. It’s set out
well for the instruments. Melodic distribution
is adeptly varied and the violin – the
composer’s own instrument of course
– doesn’t always hog things as one might
have expected. In fact the piano is
very much primus inter pares.
The wistfulness of the opening paragraphs
of the central movement are counterbalanced
almost immediately by the assertive
second theme. After this the finale
is high-spirited if a little conventional
despite the flourishes along the way.
The Op.64 so-called
Grand Trio was published three years
later. There is more bel canto here,
profuse and warmly aerated and textured.
One of the things that keeps this work
on its feet and prevents it toppling
into easy lyricism is the way de Bériot
fuses these lyrical episodes with the
Corinthian columns of his emotional
architecture – particularly true in
the second movement where there is strength
and a stoic reserve at work as well
as more obviously pliant feelings. The
vigorous finale is exciting and splendidly
thrown off by the three adept performers.
The early Op.4 trio
begins in mock-portentous fashion but
opens out with a maestoso flourish.
It’s a very compact work with some variations
at its heart, which are flattered by
some pleasant decorative passages. Even
when the violin reasserts the probing
big boned portentousness with which
the trio started it’s over quickly;
the ‘trumpet’ calls to attention suggest
a military finale with march dynamism
sweeping all before it. The Nocturne
Plaintes de jeune fille is something
of a playful Schubert tribute – engaging
if, let’s be brutal, a bit salon-trivial.
The undated, unlocated
performances are big-boned and quite
assertive. Prisoners are not taken but
the lyric episodes are not stinted.
The balance on the whole is usually
a just one, if at times things are not
quite as deft as they might be. Still,
engaging works, strongly projected.