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Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Piano Trio No. 1 in F major Op. 18 [26:33]
Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 92 [33:50]
Aquinas Piano Trio (Ruth Rogers (violin), Katherine Jenkinson (cello), Martin Cousin (piano))
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouthshire, 22-23 February 2013 (No. 1) and Old Granary Studio, Norfolk, 26-27 September 2008 (No. 2)
GUILD GMCD7408 [61:08]

The two Piano Trios of Saint-SaŽns date from 1863 and 1892 respectively, and differ greatly in character. Not in merit, however, as both must surely rank amongst not only the composer’s best works but amongst the very greatest of piano trios. They are astonishingly fresh but at the same time very finished works, immediately engaging for the listener yet repaying more detailed study. The piano trio medium can sound somewhat overblown in other hands but Saint-SaŽns achieves a miraculous clarity of texture in each of these works.
 
The earlier Trio takes the listener straightaway in imagination to a very cultured salon, with supremely cultivated, intelligent and often witty conversation between the players. This is certainly no mere chit-chat, and each movement is a delight. Pope’s lines “What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed” sum this work up for me. The Second Trio is a more ambitious work, in five movements, and longer overall. The first movement is one of the composer’s most successful creations, being both apparently spontaneous and at the same time organically conceived and well constructed. The second movement has real charm, its 5/8 metre cunningly disguised so as often to sound as though the players are indulging in some sort of strange rubato.
 
Both Trios make considerable demands on the players whilst their very urbane character requires that this should not be obvious to the listener. The Aquinas Piano Trio was only formed in 2009 but has the skill to meet their requirements in abundance. Each movement is characterised with great precision. There are many rival versions of this coupling in the catalogues but I would be surprised if this was not the equal of the best of them. Excellent notes by Robert Matthew-Walker and a clear if close recording add to the attractions of this issue.
 
John Sheppard