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.
see review by Byzantion