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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Trio (1914) [28:01] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Trio No.4 in E, K542 (1788) [19:54]
Violin Concerto No.3 in G major, K216 (1775) [24:29]
Yehudi Menuhin (violin): Gaspar Cassadó (cello): Louis Kentner (piano)
Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra/Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
rec. London, 1961 (Trios) and 1962 (Concerto) MINUET 428409 [72:30]
It’s quite true, as far as I know, that this release presents, as the blurb puts it, ‘for the first time on CD’ the complete 1961 LP featuring the two trios by Ravel and Mozart. What this means, in effect, is that the Mozart E major trio is making its silver disc premičre, as the Ravel has been reissued before – the last time I encountered it was in the mammoth EMI box set devoted to Menuhin.
The Mozart is certainly a fine performance, the trio of Menuhin, Cassadó and Kentner – not a regular trio, though Menuhin and Kentner were well acquainted – bringing great warmth and personality to their performance. The tempi are neither too leisurely nor too rushed. Rhythms are well pointed and Kentner proves an especially crisp exponent abetted by the deft commentaries of violinist and cellist, which are invariably acutely judged. Altogether this is vibrant, rich-toned and expressively communicative performance, as one would have anticipated from the three musicians. Quite why it’s slipped the net, thus far, is hard to say, though Menuhin’s vast discography has a lot to do with it.
The Ravel Trio is another lovely performance, sunnily vivid, though I can imagine those who are more attuned to the near-contemporaneous Suk Trio reading on Supraphon, which is rather more direct. However, the Menuhin team is both passionate and expressive and whilst elements of the phrasing can seem elastic, many other trios have taken their kinds of tempo. The Pantoum is especially exciting and Cassadó reveals the full tonal range of which he was capable in the Passacaille. Menuhin certainly commanded the French style, but even so a performance by Le Trio de France slightly earlier, in 1958, and recently resurrected by Forgotten Records shows how a different kind of reading – less opulent, less lingering (especially the finale, in which the Menuhin group can sound a little devitalised) and very much more acidic - brings very different rewards.
As a bonus – very necessary as otherwise you’d be left with just a straight LP-to-CD transfer - there is the oft-reissued G major Concerto, part of the cycle Menuhin made with his Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra in 1962. The Ravel-Mozart trios are heard in a transfer from the mono release. The notes are useful.