Destination Paris
Bohuslav MARTINů (1890-1959)
String Trio No.2 H238 (1934) [16:56]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
String Trio (1933) [14:14]
Bohuslav MARTINů
String Trio No.1 H136 (1923) [19:51]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Aubade in C major (1899) [4:31]
Lendvai String Trio (Nadia Wijzenbeek (violin); Ylvali Zilliacus (viola); Marie Macleod (cello))
rec. 19-21 June 2009, The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex
STONE RECORDS 5060192780079 [55:50]

This is an eminently well-chosen selection of string trios; a brace by Martinů, including the 1923 trio that only resurfaced 2005, the lovely, lissom one by Françaix, and for a calming envoi, the Aubade by Enescu.

Martinů’s first trio was written in Paris and is a decidedly uneasy kind of work. In this performance it opens rather like a folk ensemble tuning up, but its richly polyphonic status soon asserts itself and there are moments of suave Gallic lyricism amidst the hints of Parisian avant-garde. The first movement passage where the melody line rides over pizzicato accompaniment is here played with startlingly effect; nutty and naughty in the extreme. The young Lendvai String Trio certainly give it their all, as they do throughout, earning maximum points for expressive sculpting and excavation of the trio’s every innermost nook and cranny. What they also tend to do, as this may suggest, is to rather distend things. Turn, if you can – it’s not a commercial disc as such – to the premiere performance on disc, by three members of the Zemlinsky Quartet on a ‘Bohuslav Martinů Days 2005’ disc. They’re much quicker, leaner, and less prone to exaggerate things, and keep a tighter rein on structural matters. True, they’re not as eye-popping tonally and in terms of localised incident. But that, I think, points to the fact that we do not yet have a consensus on how to play the work. This may, or may not, emerge with time. There is an equal disparity in the central movement where the Lendvai are the more mysterious, whereas the Zemlinsky are, perhaps not inappropriately, more youthful, unselfconscious: a fresh walk to the Lendvai’s Lekeu-derived hothouse. Also, whilst I appreciate that the finale is marked ‘poco allegro’ it strikes me that the Lendvai take this at too stately a trot.

The Second Trio is equally well played but this two-movement work could also do with a bit of speeding up, to allow the incidents more sharply to contrast. They surely slow down far too much for the ‘second subject’ of the first movement; things grind to a halt, and despite the insouciant Paganinian whistle imitations, ripely brought out, and the slow intense start to the second movement, there’s not always sufficient differentiation between these two movements.

They certainly take the Françaix at their own tempo, ignoring the waspish precedent of the Heifetz-led LP performance with Joseph de Pasquale and Gregor Piatigorsky. Still, this new version is richly presented, well textured and with a good complement of badinage. If I miss the vertiginous accents and almost demonic drive of the older recording, then I concede that this more equable and obviously affectionate take is no mere virtuosic showpiece. Neither is the Aubade, a charming and saucily folkloric episode from Enescu.

Impeccably recorded and with a fine booklet - typos apart – this is a good value for money disc. Interpretatively though I’d like this group to luxuriate just a bit less, and to dig in that bit more.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Steve Arloff

I’d like this group to luxuriate just a bit less and to dig in that bit more.