One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider
  • Brahms Symphony 4 Dvorak Symphony 9
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Sinfonie Concertanti
  • IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra
  • Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano

Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!

Nothing but Praise

BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set

Telemann continues to amaze

A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition

Another Bacewicz winner

match any I’ve heard

An outstanding centenary collection

personable, tuneful, approachable

a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.

music that will be new to most people

telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded

hitherto unrecorded Latvian music


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Charles O’BRIEN (1882-1968)
Complete Chamber Music - Volume 1
Sonata for Piano Trio No.1 in B flat major, Op.27 (first perf. 1940) [25:23]
Sonata for Piano Trio No.2 in C minor (first perf. 1940) [26:50]
Two Waltzes for Piano Trio (1928) [7:21]
Yuri Kalnits (violin), Alexander Volpov (cello), Oleg Poliansky (piano)
rec. 2017, Master Chord Studio, North Finchley, London
TOCCATA TOCC0464 [59:54]

Toccata’s reclamation of the music of Charles O’Brien now moves into a new realm. Having explored his orchestral music this is the first volume in his complete chamber cycle and the most obvious question to confront the listener – one which now seems impossible to answer with certainty – relates to dates of composition. Both the curiously titled Sonatas for Piano Trio – just what precisely is wrong with plain old ‘Piano Trio’? – were premiered in 1940 but that is not necessarily indicative of composition date.

The first Trio is a standard four-movement late-Romantic affair though its opening paragraphs sound loose and worryingly diffuse, a feeling happily dissipated by the lightly dancing second subject and thereafter the music’s roughly Schubertian-to-Mendelssohnian syntax is not wholly obscured by Brahmsian intimations. The Scherzo and Trio features rather madcap pizzicati over an earnest piano, somewhat reminiscent of Brahms’ Horn Trio, but the Andantino is the movement that most markedly reveals O’Brien’s debt to Brahms in its distinguished, eloquent nobility. The finale also exudes this element though Paul Mann’s notes also suggest an admixture of Elgar – presumably the Quartet.

This would be exceptionally retrogressive stylistically for 1940 but had it been written in, say, 1910 when O’Brien was in his late 20s, it would be pretty much explicable. The companion trio has structural features very different from its companion. I’d suggest it was written significantly after the B flat major, given its far more tightly constructed first movement and the novelty of its Air with variations including a Scherzo. That ten-minute opening movement is sinewy and whilst it too contains dance motifs, of which O’Brien was fond, it does so in a very much more ambiguous and integrated way – so too the craggy fugato. The Air itself breathes nineteenth-century whimsy and the successive variations offer intriguing contrasts and real brevity. The most notable of these eight variations is the funeral march but there’s a delightful sense of time-travelling in this work that rather blindsides listening expectations. The Scherzo and especially its da capo is genuinely exciting and the lively finale, whilst remaining fruitfully unsettled harmonically, ends with a quiet resolution.

The disc ends with two waltzes composed in 1928, salon-styled pieces redolent of Viennese charm.

With Paul Mann’s characteristically perceptive booklet notes and a good, though not especially warm, recording quality the Russian trio of Yuri Kalnits, Alexander Volpov and Oleg Poliansky make a good case for the trios.

Jonathan Woolf


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger