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Volkmar ANDREAE (1879–1962)
Piano trio No. 2 in E flat major, op. 14 (1908) [34:55]
Sándor VERESS (1907–1992)
Piano Trio ‘Tre quadri’ (1963) [12:49]
Raffaele d’ALESSANDRO (1911–1959)
Six Miniatures (1936) [12:47]
Absolut Trio (Stefka Perifanova (piano), Bettina Boller (violin), Judith Gerster (cello))
rec. 2013, Radiostudio Zürich
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical.

The connection between these three works is fairly tenuous: the composers were Swiss residents. Andreae and d’Alessandro were Swiss by birth, Veress by migration from his native Hungary. Their musical styles are diverse to say the least: Andreae, a Brahmsian sensibility lightened by French impressionism, d’Alessandro, late-Romantic excess hardened by low-level modernism and Veress, post-Bartókian modernism.

Volkmar Andreae was a major player in the Swiss music world in the first half of the twentieth century, as conductor and composer. The Swiss label Guild has served his compositional legacy very well with five releases devoted to his works. Dominy Clements, in his review of the Guild recording of both trios, has described the sound world of the second trio so well, that I see no point in attempting to write further on it. I will restrict myself to a comparison of the two performances. The Locrian Ensemble on Guild, which I have owned since its release and listened to again for this review, are slower in each movement, from an insignificant 8 seconds in the scherzo to more than a minute in the adagio. Despite this adding two minutes plus to the work, it’s not immediately apparent in the tempos. I do, however, feel that there is a greater sense of unity, and certainly smoothness, in the Absolut Trio’s performance and so they make a far better case for the work than the Locrians. I admit to not having listened to the Guild recording for a number of years, whereas I will be returning to this new one for the Andreae very soon: I think that says everything about the respective performances.

Raffaele d’Alessandro was a new name to me, but one name in his musical education stood out: Nadia Boulanger. These short pieces – the longest is just more than three minutes – were not performed until 2013, when the Absolut Trio premiered them. There is a professional quality recording of a live performance from 2013 of the Miniatures by this trio on Youtube. They vary greatly in style and mood, from languid lyricism to harsh dissonance. The former appeals to me much more than the latter. Number 3 – Nachdenklich (thoughtful) – is the standout, intense and moving. Given the discs’s running time, it seems a shame that d’Alessandro’s piano trio from 1940 – a work of similar length to the miniatures – was not also recorded. It does exist in the catalogue on a Gallo recording of the late 1990s.

I left the Veress to last in listening and here in reviewing, as I was anticipating that a work from the 1960s by the teacher of Ligeti and Kurtág would have very little appeal to me. The work’s title means ‘Three Paintings’, bringing to mind Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano as a common inspiration, though not in style. I was pleasantly surprised by the work. Certainly, it isn’t going to be mistaken for Brahms, but nor is it particularly dissonant or, for me, unlistenable. The final movement Bauerntanz (farmer’s dance) is full of irregular metres and strange rhythms, but rhythms nonetheless. It must be very difficult to bring off successfully, and the Absoluts do so brilliantly.

The Absolut Trio formed in 2003, and its current members came together in 2009. They have a collective interest in contemporary works, and have commissioned a number of new pieces. They have also recorded Andreae’s first, and less interesting, trio on the Solo Musica label. I haven’t heard it nor has it been reviewed here: I’m betting that it will be about as good as the first trio can get.

The recording quality is excellent and the notes informative, and as one would expect from a Swiss label, in three languages (German, French and English). One, and only one, negative – the download from eClassical did not come with a booklet; I got that from the Naxos Music Library.

David Barker