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Petr FIALA (b.1943)
Trio for violin, cello and piano (1980) [13:57]
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Megiddo per violino, violoncello e pianoforte (2001) [11:33]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007)
Piano Trio (1986) [19:46]
Puella Trio: Terezie Fialová (piano); Lenka Matejáková (violin); Markéta Vrbková (cello)
rec. Josef Dobrovský Hall, Convent of the Brothers of Mercy, Brno, January 2009
ARCO DIVA UP 0114-2131 [45:28]
Experience Classicsonline

Once again Jiři Štilec and the Arco Diva team have delved into some enticing repertoire and produced a disc of contrast and vitality. The stimulus for this particular release is the eightieth anniversary of Eben's birth; he died in 2007.

The opening work is Petr Fiala's Trio. Written in 1980 it's a taut, toned tightly constructed four movement work that begins with a short-winded and witty Giocoso. In the slow movement the piano's glissandi - I don't know whether the pianist of the Puella Trio, Terezie Fialová, is a relation of the composer (daughter?) but she plays splendidly - are reminiscent of the cimbalon, and the shimmering, slow-moving string melancholy imparts its own reflective gloss on proceedings too. The developing chorale on the piano - something of a Czech speciality - also contains its saturnine moments. There's a kind of virtuoso cadenza cum etude for the violin in the third movement and a slow cello passage to balance it. For the finale Fiala invites the piano to parade its virtuoso credentials, the strings reliant on contrapuntal assurance. Slowly the chorale - Fiala is a distinguished choral director in Brno and it re-appears with vocalised power - emerges once again and leads to further reminiscence.

Sylvie Bodorová wrote Megiddo in 2001, a work that owed its genesis to a visit the composer made to Israel when she was working on her excellent Judas Maccabeus. She was there to study aspects of ritual singing as well as particular approaches to melody and melismatic singing. Things start with a somewhat hieratic determination but the writing is splendidly refined, advancing by Seurat-like brushstrokes or more gaunt and sinewy 'pillars'. Throughout the ear is kept alive by her series of aural devices. Affecting lyricism, quiet and keening, occupies the slow movement; folkloric hues are not far away either though they are, it's true, sublimated. The piano here becomes ever more romantically effusive until the biting, terse end of the movement. The finale, Armagedon, is powerfully rhythmic and driving but ends with quiet reminiscence, as did the Fiala.

Finally we have Eben's 1986 Piano Trio. Eben manages the tricky business of balancing quite terse material with moments of reflective withdrawal. So too he delineates exchanges between the three instruments - in the slow movement in particular - in a highly sophisticated way; leaps, chordal power, tolling textures, warm string lines that are effusive but never glutinous. He also cultivates a post-Mahlerian melos of rapid conjunctions of mood, one that appeals in a Shostakovich-influenced way, not least in its occasional severities. For the toccata-like motion of the finale, its brief folk-like moments, and a kind of discreetly modified boogie rhythm, no praise can be too high.

I'm glad to see that Karel Janovicky has been enlisted to carry out the full translations. The booklet also sports some ritzy pictures of the musicians. The disc is only forty-five minutes in length but the rewards far outweigh that possible limitation.

Jonathan Woolf 

see also review by Dominy Clements July RECORDING OF THE MONTH



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