Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Concert in D major for Violin, Piano and String Quartet Op. 21 (1889-91) [42:15]
Piano Trio in G minor Op. 3 (1881) [34:04]
Eric Larsen (piano); Stephen Shipps (violin); Wihan String Quartet (Concert)
Meadowmount Trio (Piano Trio)
NAXOS 8.572468 [76:20]

Chausson did not commit himself to a musical career until he was twenty-six years old. The first fruits of that resolution were the fine songs of Op.2 and the Piano Trio Op.3. While the latter work possesses definite structural immaturities and is occasionally melodramatic, it also shows that the composerís melodic gift and surpassing sense of thematic development were in evidence right from the beginning.

The introduction to Chaussonís Piano Trio is based on two themes that reappear throughout the work, generating other themes and insuring thematic unity. The stormy, almost morose, first movement proper demonstrates the composerís already distinctive voice, especially in the development. The scherzo second movement has none of the drama of the first, being a rollicking and affectionate parody of the styles of some of the composerís contemporaries. The massive slow movement starts out in a mood similar to that of the first, but becomes even more elegiac and wistful. The emotional level occasionally becomes strident, but the composerís sincerity is unquestionable. The animť last movement starts off cheerfully, but themes from the first and third movements keep popping up, increasing the level of seriousness, and the movement ends quite austerely.

By 1889, almost a decade after the Piano Trio, Chausson had reached full artistic maturity. This is evident in the Concert, his best-known chamber work. The piece is not a concerto in the usual sense, but a sort of update of the concerto grosso, with the six instruments combining in different ways as well as playing all together. The first movementís motto theme undergoes wonderful transformations in combination with a more lyrical second theme. The Sicilienne forms a gentle interlude between the weightier first and third movements, with the latter being something of a lament. The final movement continues the seriousness of its predecessor, but the overall feeling gradually becomes one of tremendous vitality.

The Meadowmount Trio - their name derives from long-term residence at the music camp of that name - shows a of lot energy in their performance and Eric Larsen is especially to be commended for keeping things moving, although even he flags in the last movement. Larsen and the Meadowmountís Stephen Shipps join the esteemed Wihan Quartet in the Concert and overall the six players form a cohesive unit, achieving quite a distinctive performance. Recording quality is fairly sumptuous by Naxos standards, although the violins are somewhat shrill. Altogether, a pair of moving and exciting performances.

William Kreindler

Impassioned and incisive performances of two of Chaussonís chamber masterworks.