This CD presents the Piano Trios of three composers, Gerhard,
Montsalvatge and Cassadó, linked far more by their Catalan identity
than through their musical styles, which the programme notes
label 'avant-garde', 'eclectic'
and 'nationalist' respectively.
The Trio Arriaga open their recital with Gerhard's Trio,
unusual in that it does not sound like Gerhard! It was written
before he became one of Spain's first avant-gardists,
that is before he studied with Schoenberg and started lacing
his music with atonality. This lengthy tripartite work is strongly
lyrical, often sensual, sounding more French or sometimes British
than Spanish. The CD gives this as Piano Trio 'no.1',
but that is slightly misleading in that in the second, as the
booklet notes do indicate, a clarinet replaces the cello. It
is a pleasing, relatively undemanding work that might have long
since secured a place in the repertoire if not for the name
attached to it - yet Gerhard was not an out-and-out modernist
and many of his later works can still be considered lyrical
and relatively audience-friendly.
Xavier Montsalvatge's much later Piano Trio could easily
have come from Gerhard's pen - dreamy, restrained, melodic,
in many ways it is a shortened, harmonically modernised version
of the latter's Trio, with little of the Catalan flavour
that usually typifies Montsalvatge's highly original
music. Note-writer Albert Ferrer Flamarich describes it as "as
a whole [...] a little uneven", an unnecessarily negative
note for a work most listeners should find thoroughly appealing,
with the finale indeed rather memorably jaunty.
Gaspar Cassadó's Trio is still in the repertory of some
ensembles, and the reason for that is obvious from the opening
bars - this is the most original and most powerful work on the
CD by a distance. Considerably more virtuosic than the first
two, it is also decidedly more Spanish-sounding, thanks especially
to its native folk rhythms, which recall the likes of Granados
and Turina. In fact, in previous recordings Cassadó's
Trio has appeared alongside those of this very pair, for example
on Chandos a decade ago (CHAN 9834) and again on Challenge Classics
On the subject of competition for the Spanish Trio Arriaga,
the Montsalvatge Trio has also appeared at least twice before,
most recently on a Columna Música monograph in the mid 2000s
(1CM0063). This Spanish label, incidentally, is the best label
to go to for Montsalvatge's music, although his well-known
Canción Negra no.4 is as likely to pop up anywhere. Gerhard
predictably has seen the most recordings, for example on La
Mà de Guido (LMG 2065) in 2005, again with the Granados Trio,
and on a monographic release by the same label a couple of years
earlier (LMG 2021), performed rather aptly by the Trio Gerhard;
and most recently on Columna Música again (1CM0185, 2008). Naxos,
rather surprisingly, have yet to release an all-Gerhard CD -
the closest they come is an inherited 1990s Marco Polo disc
of his piano music (8.223867).
As for the Trio Arriaga here, they deliver strong, expressive
performances, particularly of the Cassadó, with intuitive ensemble
give-and-take and a mature sound. The cheaper Naxos cover price
may steer waverers their way in any case, although against that
must be weighed the fact that this is a pretty short disc and
the sound quality, though reasonably good, is just slightly
muffled and perhaps a little thin at times. Notes in English
and Spanish are somewhat brief, but informative and well translated.
The Trio Arriaga's biographical note is also short and
claims that the ensemble has made "a definitive recording"
of Turina's complete Piano Trios - surely a judgement
best left to posterity.
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