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Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Complete Piano Trios
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 19 (1874/75) [31:20]
Soirs d’Alsace, Op. 52 (1908) [15:18]
Quatre Trios (1889/90) [14:50]
Trio Parnassus (Yamei Yu (violin); Michael Groß (cello); Chia Chou (piano); Gérard Caussé (viola))
rec. 24-26 July 2012, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster, Germany

The label Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm (MDG) pride themselves in recording music that falls outside the standard repertory. So it comes as no surprise for the label to turn to the neglected chamber music of Charles-Marie Widor. The Lyon-born Widor is almost exclusively known for his organ music. A familiar centre-piece at weddings the Toccata the final movement from Widor’s Symphony for Organ No. 5 is universally recognised throughout the classical music world. Over his long career Widor did write in other genres most of which are generally ignored today; including orchestral symphonies, concertos, ballet music and three operas. As a concert pianist and organist Widor’s was best known as titular organist at Saint-Sulpice, Paris, serving there for a remarkable sixty-three years.
My first association with Widor’s chamber music was in 1989 with the release on the Marco Polo label of the Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 19 and Piano Quintet in D minor, Op. 7. I still play that recording occasionally which has been reissued on Naxos 8.555416 and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to hear more of Widor’s chamber music.
The first work on the MDG disc the four movement Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 19 was composed in 1874/75. Generally sunny and uplifting the opening movement is highly melodic with an especially prominent part for the violin. Lasting just over ten minutes here the appealing and tender Andante soothes like balm. Serving as a contrast and led by the piano the mischievous Scherzo is marked by scurrying and darting figures. The breezy and determined Finale, Presto contains noticeable shifts in tempi, weight and intensity and concludes with a stirring flourish.
Next the Soirs d’Alsace, a late four movement work from 1908 for violin and cello with piano accompaniment are musical picture postcards from the Alsace. I found the opening movement En Route! bright, cheerful and vitalising with some interesting string effects. Ciel d'Orage is a dark piece suffused with melancholy. It is followed by the blustery Le Calme renaît a concentrated movement just overflowing with passion. The highly melodic Promenade sentimentale, brings a sunny and engaging close.
The final score on the disc is the Quatre Trios for violin, cello and piano from 1889/90. Opening with an impulsive Humoresque the following buoyant and rather playful Cantabile is infectiously dance-like and melodic. A sense of warmth and comfort permeates the emotionally undemanding Nocturne. The final piece is a highly engaging and carefree Serenade. It feels like a nirvana from the stress and strain of life.
German-based Trio Parnassus has released over thirty recordings for the MDG label and seems an ideal choice for Widor’s appealing piano trios. One senses that the well prepared players have a natural empathy for Widor’s writing. Their high quality playing is especially spirited and expressive. Piano and strings are notoriously difficult to balance but the MDG engineers have achieved good results with Chia Chou’s Steinway concert grand piano model D from 1901 sounding in glorious tone.
Michael Cookson