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Francis THOMÉ (1850-1909)
Piano Trio in A major, Op. 121 (1892) [41:43]
Simple Aveu, Op. 25 (1878) [3:40]
Le Rêve , Op. 55 (1883) [3:14]
Andante religioso, Op. 70 (1882) [7:25]
Clair de lune, Op. 112 (1890) [3:60]
Menuet La Vallière, Op. 121 (1893-94) [3:58]
Trio Thalberg (Gérard Torgomian (violin), Frédéric Borsarello (cello), Alain Raës (piano))
rec. April-May 2012, Studio Recital (Tihange-B), Belgium
World Premiere Recordings

This release from Azur Classical has been recorded under the auspices of La Collection du Festival International Albert Roussel, under the artistic directorship of singer, conductor, composer and musicologist Damien Top. The organization’s aim is to ‘expand the appreciation of the compositions of Albert Roussel and his contemporaries’, and their exploration of the more recherché French repertoire is commendable. Francis Thomé is a name that won’t be familiar to many. Although he was born in Mauritius, he spent his working life in France. A musically gifted child, he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire in 1866, aged sixteen, where he studied composition under Jules Laurent Duprato and Ambroise Thomas and piano under Antoine-François Marmontel. When he graduated in 1870, he had secured first prize in counterpoint. He went on to establish a reputation as a distinguished teacher of piano. During his lifetime he gained a certain popularity for his salon pieces. In fact, most of his music can be termed ‘light’, with an emphasis on memorable melody. The main bulk consists of ballets, operettas, songs, chamber, instrumental and piano music. Yet, as this release demonstrates, he was capable of more serious endeavours.

The Piano Trio in A major, Op. 121 was the composer’s first major instrumental work. Although premiered in March 1881, it was not published until 1892. A substantial score, it is cast in four movements. The first has an impressive opening with a declamatory ascending scale, immediately summoning listeners to sit up and take notice. The second subject theme, tender and passionate, is particularly attractive. Dotted rhythms bring the exposition to an end. There follows a sprightly Scherzo, genial and fun-loving. The Adagio takes a more serious view of life. It’s an intimate dialogue between the violin and cello, played with ardent tenderness by the Thalbergs. Halfway through, Thomé ups the rhetoric and the music becomes more dramatically potent. In the finale, the composer puts his contrapuntal skills to good use. He pays tribute to his love of the Baroque suite, with special reference to the gigue. The movement is affable, upbeat and guaranteed to raise a smile.

The five short, ear-tickling morsels for piano trio can be classed as salon music. Thomé’s gift for melody is evident throughout. The Andante religioso, Op. 70 is particularly attractive, beginning with a song without words for cello and piano. Then it’s the violin’s turn to make a contribution, but the cello isn’t for letting the fiddle steal the show. At the end the violin and cello sing the lush melody accompanied by strumming arpeggios on the piano. It’s an absolute delight! If it’s memorable melody you’re after, give Simple Aveu and Clair de lune a try. It will be noted that the Menuet La Vallière carries the same opus number as the Trio. Thomé’s music is at present undergoing a major new ordering, with many unpublished works being recatalogued.

The Trio Thalberg give committed readings of these attractive scores, and seem to have a real love and affection for the music. I must make special mention of the excellent well-written booklet notes (French and English) by Claudie Ricaud, so important with obscure repertoire such as this. The recording is in first class sound.
Stephen Greenbank



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