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Notable Women
Lera AUERBACH (b.1973)
Trio, for violin, cello and piano (1992/1996) [11:35]
Stacy GARROP (b.1969)
Seven, for piano trio (1997-98) [11:44]
Jennifer HIGDON (b.1962)
Piano Trio (2003) [14:03]
Laura Elise SCHWENDINGER (b.1962)
C'è la Luna questa Sera? (1998/2006) [5:25]
Augusta Read THOMAS (b.1964)
Moon Jig (2005) [4:40]
Joan TOWER (b.1938)
Trio Cavany (2007) [19:14]
Lincoln Trio (Desirée Ruhstrat (violin); David Cunliffe (cello); Marta Aznavoorian (piano))
rec. Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia, Highland Park, Illinois, 1-5 November 2010 and 15 April 2011. DDD
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000 126 [67:20]

Experience Classicsonline

The only bad thing about this CD is the title: "Notable Women" is the kind of thing that may well sound 'affirmative' in the US - none of the several American reviews already published at the time of writing even mention it - but in Europe and elsewhere is more likely to come over as a trifle patronising. On the evidence of the works featured here, these are all notable composers - gender does not come into it. Any of the four longer works on this CD is worth the asking price of the disc on its own.

The Lincoln Trio's programme opens with Russian-born Lera Auerbach's inventive Trio, its rather eerie Preludium Misterioso, complete with convincing gull noises from the cello, proceeded by a beautiful, yearning Andante. The work is brought to a thrilling conclusion by an agitated, virtuosic Presto, seamlessly written four years on from the first movements, which flies headlong to a frantic, emotionally intense conclusion. An outstanding start to the disc!

Earlier this year Chicago-based Cedille released the first CD dedicated entirely to the works of Stacy Garrop, Associate Professor of Composition at the Roosevelt University in Chicago. It was warmly received - see this review, for example. That disc featured Garrop's Silver Dagger, a Trio for violin, cello and piano, written for and played by the Lincoln Trio. Fast forward, and Seven is a tribute to Garrop's late father, partly inspired, of all things, by a cyborg character from the TV series Star Trek! It is an enthralling, extraordinary work in seven short sections, a farrago of special effects demanding singular technique and imagination from both strings and pianist - easily supplied by the Lincolns - yet still fundamentally audience-friendly.

Audience-friendliness is a term frequently applicable to the music of Jennifer Higdon, whose Violin Concerto won the Pulitzer Prize only last year, and whose music is, thankfully, appearing more and more regularly on CD. Her recent Piano Trio, dedicated to Joan Tower, has two movements, 'Pale Yellow' and 'Fiery Red', in which she explores relationships between sounds, colours and moods. 'Pale Yellow' is pure autumn mellowness - rich rather than pastel yellow - whereas 'Fiery Red' is a ferocious firestorm of blazing brilliance. A better first half to a CD is hard to imagine.

The second half is a little more modernist in idiom - anyone coming to this disc with any notion that music written by women is inherently more 'feminine' than music by men is in for a shock. Curiously, the fourth and fifth items are two short moon-themed pieces: Laura Elise Schwendinger's impassioned C'è la Luna Questa Sera? ('Is the Moon out This Evening?'), apparently inspired by the dancing of moonlight on Lake Como in Italy, and Augusta Read Thomas's restless, atonal Moon Jig. There is nothing especially lunar about either work, it has to be said, certainly nothing in the music to becalm the senses like a moonlit landscape. Both pieces are less likely to appeal to general audiences, but at the very least they add extra spice and colour to the Lincoln Trio's almost unbeatable programme.

Finally to Joan Tower, who is from a different generation - the only one here without her own website! She is without question one of America's most significant living composers, and her electrifying Trio Cavany - which she composed just short of her seventieth birthday - demonstrates why. The title is made up of the abbreviations for the three states whose music festivals co-commissioned the work, and this tripartite theme is enlarged upon through the recurrence of prominent solos for each of the instrumentalists, with any two or all three frequently coming together to poetic end.

The marvellous Lincoln Trio performed this very programme at the Ravinia Festival in 2010, in the same order in fact, so it is hardly surprising that they sound both very comfortable and in total command of all this often highly exigent music. Only the works by Higdon and Thomas have been previously recorded.

The disc is nicely recorded in generally well-balanced, realistic sound, and the CD booklet is once again just how CD booklets should always be, thoughtfully and clearly laid out - Naxos in particular could learn something from the size of the font! - with as much information as the average listener needs, just a couple of photos of the Lincoln Trio for good measure, and everything printed on high quality paper.

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