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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. 9-10 January 2009, Josef Dorovsky Hall, Convent of the Brothers of Mercy, Brno.
ARCODIVA UP 0114-2 131 [45:28] 


Sound Samples included in this review

Experience Classicsonline

The Puella Trio has already established a reputation for excellence in previous releases for the ArcoDiva label, and this release, which commemorates the 80th anniversary of the birth of Petr Eben, will most certainly reinforce their profile.

Other than their common Czech nationality, the choice of composers sharing this disc with Eben doesn't seem to have any specific theme. Each work has its own power and fascination however, and the selection creates a very worthwhile programme indeed. Petr Fiala's Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano opens with an Allegro giocoso which owes a little to Shostakovich in its thematic shapes and nervily playful character. sample The second movement is an Andante cantabile which is led by a mournfully melodic cello, with a recurring chorale and harp-like glissandi in the piano. Once again, the ghost of Shostakovich holds a certain spell over the music, calling the funereal atmosphere of the slow movement of his op.67 trio to mind. sample The violin leads in the following energetic Presto feroce which extends in to contrasting Largo sections of a more introspective nature. The virtuoso playing of the trio is tested at places here, and comes up like the best and most aromatic of roses. sample The piano has its turn to lead in the final Vivace con brio, sample a potent rhythmic statement which again has something of Shostakovich in the contrapuntal treatment of the material, possibly with a dusting of Messiaen in some of the parallel chords in the upper range of the piano. Material from the slow second movement is brought back as a kind of 'closure coda'. This is a very satisfying piece of music indeed.

Sylvie Bodorová's Megiddo piano trio owes its title to an eponymous location in Israel, 'where I realised how human everything was - compared with the long breath of history - how small, irrevocable, mortal.' The piece was written in 2001 as a commission from the Leamington Festival in England. The piece has at once a kind of monumental strength, established in the powerful opening statement, as well as a fragility expressed in atmospheric and soulful tonalities and a sense of freedom between the players. sample There are some 'variable elements' introduced in the second movement, but in comparison with Fiala's works there is in any case a sense of greater space between the instrument, or between strings and piano. Even where unity drives the music, special resonant sustain effects in the piano separates the power of the notes from a kind of silent non-silence. sample The composer states that 'the work concentrates on peculiarities of texture', but there is also a great deal of emotive expression going on in the second movement, and the final Armagedon launches itself with punishing, rhythms which build to an apocalyptic climax. With a return to the mournful sensations earlier in the piece, the work concludes in softly treading mystery. sample

Petr Eben has been one of the best known Czech composers in the 20th century, and his work has been recorded widely. As with Petr Filia's piece, the 1986 Piano Trio was premièred by the New Prague Trio. The longest of the three pieces here, the opening is a confident Drammatico which strides along with unstoppable drive, pushing aside all irrelevancies sample up to the gentle conclusion which serves to introduce an Andante con espressione.There are some gorgeous effects and shapes in this movement, despite the sometimes 'ragged melodies' which are created by open textures and wide intervallic relationships. sample The penultimate Lento is an intriguingly enigmatic procession in the piano, interrupted and over-layered with an argumentative waltz from the strings. sample The final movement is a high-impact Agitato out of which some folk-like dance rhythms emerge. I seem to be hearing Shostakovich in everything today, and this might have something to do with the piano-trio 'sound', but I do hear plenty of Slavic accent and energy in this movement. sample At about 3 minutes in this material moves into more of a perpetuum-mobile, with at times equal rhythmic contribution from strings and piano, then off and flying with some remarkable melodic/harmonic statements: a very powerful conclusion.

Don't be put off by the relatively short playing time on this disc, and don't be misled by the frilly sexiness of the Puella Trio as dressed by Gabina Paralova and photographed by Dušan Martinček. If you don't come away from this feeling as if you've been given a thorough workout, physically and emotionally, then you haven't been listening properly. With a fascinating and original programme, superb recording and performances to match, this has to be one of the chamber music recordings of the year.

Dominy Clements


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