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Roberto GERHARD (1896-1970)
Piano Trio No 1 (1918) [24:43]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002)
Piano Trio (1986-1988) [12:24]
Gaspar CASSADÓ (1897-1966)
Piano Trio in C (1926-29) [16:25]
Trio Arriaga
rec. 8 February 2010, Auditori de Santa Coloma de Gramanet Can Roig i Torres, Barcelona, Spain
NAXOS 8.572647 [53:32]

Experience Classicsonline

A while back Naxos issued a superb Jordi Masó piano recital called the Catalan Piano Album. This might as well be the Catalan Piano Trio Album, since it brings together three composers from the region: Roberto Gerhard, who was a disciple first of Falla and Fauré and later of Schoenberg; Xavier Montsalvatge, a master of eclecticism fluent in many styles; and the more romantic cellist-composer Gaspar Cassadó. It’s not quite an hour in length, but the music here is all well worth a listen and the adventurous ear will be rewarded (if not quite as richly as on the piano album).
Roberto Gerhard’s Piano Trio No. 1 dates from early in his career, 1918, when he was still under the influence of the French impressionists. So strong was his loyalty to them at the time that he actually gave the movements French titles (e.g. a vif finale). And they do sometimes feel French, notably at the beginning of the finale, where the main theme will sound very familiar to anyone who knows Ravel’s string quartet. Mostly, though, one is impressed by the relaxed tunefulness of the music but frustrated when it occasionally feels a little too relaxed. The slow movement, songlike and flowing, is the highlight.
Montsalvatge’s Piano Trio, from 1986-88, could be fairly accused of cheating. It is the product of two separate commissioned works which the composer yoked together for publication, and even the booklet note sighs that its movements do not really fit together. There is an aloof song for Dulcinea (of Don Quijote fame), a spare, eloquent homage to Federico Mompou, and a final ritornello-style movement with a brief outbreak of traditional Spanish dance material.
Gaspar Cassadó’s trio is more explicitly ethnically Spanish from the very first chords, and it should be an easy sell to any listener who enjoys their Albéniz, Falla, or Rodrigo. It appeared on a recital album last year from the Devich Trio, coupled with more outright nationalistic works in the same vein by Turina, Granados, and Arbós. The Devich Trio’s approach to Cassadó was much slower, more romantic, and more emotionally luscious, and I retain a soft spot for it. The Trio Arriaga seems a little colder and more “objective” here and in the Gerhard.
The Trio Arriaga are able to adapt themselves well to the styles of Gerhard and Montsalvatge, though, and technically leave nothing to be desired, although I think the engineering makes violinist Felipe Rodríguez sound more strident than he must be in concert. As I said, this is a fine sampler for the adventurous (tapas?). Those who like their Spanish piano trios to be more overtly “Spanish” in character should start with the Devich, but the variety here is rewarding too.
Brian Reinhart

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