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Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
The Complete Piano Trios
Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H 332 (1951) [22:24]
Bergerettes, H 275 (1939) [22:55]
Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, H 327 (1950) [17:25]
Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor Cinq pièces brèves H 193 (1930) [12:14]
Trio Martinů (Petr Jirikovsky (piano); Pavel Safarik (violin); Jaroslav Matejka (cello))
rec. 2016/7, Martínek Studio, Prague
MUSICAPHON M56970 [75:20]

This disc attests to the vigorous life in every DNA strand of Martinů's music.

His complete piano trios have been done before, most recently on Supraphon by the Smetana Trio. This disc offers all three numbered trios plus the five Bergerettes. It's a natural and generous selection running here to 75 minutes.

The Piano Trio no. 1 is the Cinq Pieces Brèves. The Second Trio is from 1950 and Martinů's jubilantly creative American years. This is said by the note-writer Petr Jirikovsky to be among his neo-classical works. I confess that it does not strike me in that way. especially its outer movements where it has the plangent propulsion of the Fourth Symphony and a direct emotional message. It strikes its often yearning and glinting stance in bell-like exuberance across only 17 minutes. This is quite a small canvas.

The five Bergerettes score is from 1939 and carries the sec style of his Paris years. This dryness is moderated by a melodic embrace and the privilege of expressing himself over five short movements. Add to this that he stands away from any compulsion to work within sonata models, an expectation otherwise raised by the Trio format. It's a companionable work yet touching too.

The Piano Trio No 3 is poignant and intense. Again, it is from the composer's fruitful years in the USA. Joy, conflict and tears are there together with an overhung hesitancy in the middle movement. Splendid bustle and onrush return in the chaffing and hurtling finale. In common with the Fifth Symphony there are Beethovenian echoes in this movement. Like the Trio No. 2, this Trio is in three movements.

The disc ends with the Cinq Pièces Brèves which, like the Bergerettes is in five movements. Its the shortest work here: five movements in 12:14. This Parisian work is an entertainment expressed with neo-classical expressive means: four allegros and one adagio. The allegros rush and ripple in a style that parallels that of the player-piano and the gusty Concerto For Flute, Violin And Orchestra and the Duo-Concertant.

This is very nicely done and the recording has been naturally balanced allowing distance between the recording stage and the listener. This is not a set-up that thrusts you into the centre of the musical action. The notes, which are excellent, are by the pianist of the Trio Martinů.

This makes for a logical choice for the Martinů trios and also an object lesson in the composer's neo-classical and more juicily nostalgic, energetic and nationalist style.

Rob Barnett

Previous reviews: Jonathan Woolf ~ Dave Billinge



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