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Cecilé CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
Piano Trio No. 2 in A minor, op 34 (1887) [23:41]
Claude DEBUSSY (-1918)
Piano Trio in G major, op. 8 (1880) [23:04]
René LENORMAND (1846-1932)
Piano Trio in G minor, op. 30 (1893) [25:28]
Trio Chausson
rec. l'Église Lutherienne St Marcel, Paris, 2011
Reviewed as 16-bit download from
MIRARE MIR163 [72:13]

This is a very intelligently designed recording, coupling trios written towards the end of the nineteenth century, by French composers who range from the great, through the recognisable to the almost completely unknown. The booklet notes, written in the form of an interview with the players, suggests that the starting point was not the Debussy but the lesser known works. This, for me, gives it a big tick of approval straight away. Too many recordings of the Debussy default to the Ravel and/or Fauré trios as discmates.

Cecilé Chaminade was recognised as a child prodigy, and was fortunate to be born in a time when French society that was becoming more tolerant of women composers and performers. While she could not enter the Conservatoire, she did receive encouragement from some of the great names of French musical circles – Bizet, Saint-Saëns and Chabrier – and lessons from Benjamin Godard. She wrote two trios in the 1880s, debuting as a pianist with the First in 1880 at the Société Nationale de Musique. The second trio presented here contains a glorious slow movement, so fine that even were the other movements to be mundane, the work would still be worthy of attention. Fortunately, the outer fast movements are also highly enjoyable. This really is a work that should be in every piano trio’s repertoire. It is not a perfumed salon piece, but a rich Romantic French trio. As it is, there are only a handful of recordings, one of which – by Trio Tzigane on ASV – is hard to obtain. Even were ASV still in business, this recording by Trio Chausson sweeps the field with a quite wonderful reading.

The Debussy is somewhat less successful. They take a very broad view of it, three minutes more than the Florestan Trio, and it is not a work that needs to be drawn out. I recently reviewed a release from the Daroch trio which included the Debussy, and I enjoyed their rather robust take on it, commenting that it avoided any sense of salon music, which I had read somewhere as a criticism of the Debussy. Trio Chausson do take us back into a more genteel world, and while it is beautifully played, I am not convinced.

René Lenormand was completely unknown to me, and as far as I can tell, this is the only recording of a work of his. He was an acquaintance of Faure’s, and the father of a well-known French playwright, Henri-René. His main interest was songs, and these form the bulk of his compositions. This was written last of the three trios here, but strikes me as the most conservative. It is enjoyable, but lacks that spark of originality that shines so brightly in the Chaminade. As a hunter of the rare trio, I very much appreciate Trio Chausson’s enterprise in programming it.

The recording was made at the instigation of Palazzetto Bru Zane, an organisation based in Venice, but with the intention of promoting the rediscovery of the French musical heritage from 1780 to 1920. Trio Chausson have released five recordings on Mirare, the most recent featuring works by Haydn and Hummel. Alas, they haven’t returned to such obscure fare as on this recording, but one lives in hope that they might give us Chaminade’s First Trio in the future.

David Barker



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