There’s no compelling logic for conjoining these two piano trios, other than a generalised sense of the works’ frank expressivity.
Arno Babadjanian’s Trio, one of his best works – though not quite on a par with his Violin Sonata – was composed in 1953 when the Armenian composer was in his early thirties. Its ethos is fin de siècle
fused with Late-Romanticism, inclining towards a richness of expression both melancholic – in its very opening paragraphs – and more extrovert. His gift for melodic distinction is heard at its finest in the central slow movement where the violin soars over a rich bed of nostalgic piano writing, the cello then adding its own commentary. The Potch Trio ensure that the music’s essential refinement is honoured, shaping dynamics – especially pianissimos – with perception. The music’s stance is turned inward here through intelligent modifications of vibrato – not too much – thereby allowing the folkloric dance in the finale to emerge the more dramatically. Somewhat Bartókian, this engaging music slows for the second subject before ratcheting tension for a rhythmically vital, energetic finale.
By contrast Peteris Vasks’ Trio Episodi e Canto Perpetuo
is considerably more allusive. The composer has written an extensive commentary in the score in which the titles of the eight episodes - Crescendo, Misterioso, Unisoni, Bulesca, Monologhi, Canto Perpetuo, Apogeo e coda – give a strong clue as to the Trio’s expressive journey. There are plenty of timbral contrasts here, moments when the piano’s sparse trills act as a prompt and angular agitated repetitive writing – active minimalism, if you will. One of the most impressive movements of all is Episode 5, the monologue, in which nostalgia and rapt melancholia – qualities shared here with the Babadjanian – co-exist with the piano’s repetitive tolling. Vasks reserves his most lovely writing for the penultimate movement, the Canto, which enshrines a glorious melody that gradually thins to usher in the finale that furthers recedes to a disappearing point.
Delos has picked up this 1997 recording and worthily so, as the Potch Trio project much of the two works’ essential spirit with care and sympathy.
Previous review: Brian