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Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Suite in G minor, for two violins and piano, Op. 71 [18:19]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Sonata for two violins and piano, Op. 15 [17:45]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Sonatina for two violins and piano, H. 198 [12:54]
Trio Koch
Recording information not provided
ETCETERA KTC1543 [48:58]

Trio Koch is an unusual kind of piano trio, for two reasons. First, it consists of two violins and a piano, rather than the usual violin-cello-piano arrangement. Second, it is a family business. Violinist Philippe Koch is leader of the Luxembourg Philharmonic; his daughter Laurence is the other violinist, and his son Jean-Philippe is the pianist.

I must confess that I had rarely before this disc considered the idea of a two-violin piano trio. And I must confess, too, that I am totally astonished by the quality of the music here. These are three always-enjoyable composers, and they’ve contributed substantial pieces to what must be a small repertoire.

Moritz Moszkowski is known for his miniatures and salon music; a new Reference Recordings CD, the review of which I finished writing five minutes before starting this one, adds his light-hearted ballet music to the catalog. This Suite in G minor, however, is a more substantial, serious piece. It’s almost Brahmsian in language, with contrapuntal displays, strong dialogue between the two violinists, and a searchingly sad slow movement. The lightest he gets is in a scherzo with echoes of the Viennese waltz, although the high-energy finale has major tarantella elements. It might be the best substantial work I have ever heard from Moszkowski.

Darius Milhaud is best-known for his jazzy ballets, but this early work is more indebted to impressionists like Debussy and Fauré, and Provencal folk music. The violins enter playing the same melody in different octaves, for a striking effect. Throughout the brief sonata, there are dance episodes which presage the Milhaud to come, but they are contrasted with exquisite slower passages and lyrical passages in which the violinists pass melodies back and forth. The piece even ends quietly.

Martinů’s earlyish (1930) Sonatina is the only work I had heard before, on Hyperion’s superb chamber music compilation featuring the Dartington Ensemble. It’s lighthearted and neoclassical, with the composer’s typical bouncing rhythms and evocative melodies. There’s not much reason to complain about either recording; if for some reason you have to choose only one, the couplings should guide the decision. The Hyperion collection focuses on Martinů, including one of his greatest masterworks, the Nonet, written just months before his death.

Etcetera gives us no information about where or when this album was recorded, but the sound is excellent, and more importantly, so are the players. The violinists have great tone, an affinity for the music, and the close collaboration one would expect of a father and daughter. Jean-Philippe accompanies them superbly on piano, especially impressive in the Moszkowski finale. Philippe Koch must be proud of his children.

There are only 49 minutes of music on this disc, but they are so good, and the three pieces recorded here are so rare, that I will make no complaint. A terrific CD.

Brian Reinhart



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