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Bernhard MOLIQUE (1802-1869)
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op.27 (1846) [33:45]
Piano Trio in F major, Op.52 (1855) [29:35]
Trio Parnassus
rec. 2018, Konzerthaus der Abtei, Marienmünster
MDG 303 2116-2 [63:34]

Unlike those of his elite fellow executant-composers such as Rode, Spohr, or Viotti, Molique’s violin concertos never really made it, whether as concert vehicles or as student practice works. His chamber music too was long ignored and it’s really only in recent years that labels have begun to explore it. CPO has been recording the quartets and now MDG turns to the piano trios in its first volume of a series.

The first two trios occupy the years 1846 to 1855. The First in B flat major is a largely easy-going affair, with a strong role for the cello’s lyrical cantilena, the violin’s answering phrases tapering nicely, the whole set in the context of conventional sonata form. There’s more at work in the central movements than the outer ones, not least because the second movement Scherzo – light, frothy and zesty, during which the scherzo and its trio are played again with all repeats - is linked to the ensuing Adagio via a cello cadenza. Even more, the slow movement is infiltrated by themes from the Scherzo in a kind of bizarre binding element. It’s a Mendelssohnian ethos with a Berliozian idée fixe. The finale is measured and droll, jaunty but not too fast. Despite his German background there are, as often, very French-sounding principles at work here.

The Second Trio of 1855 is a melodious, splendidly calibrated work but less structurally and expressively complex. The notes speak of a ‘Norwegian Jazz’ element at work in the slow movement – this relates to the pizzicati - but I suppose if Beethoven invented Boogie Woogie why shouldn’t Molique have invented Euro-Cool Jazz? On a more sensible note, the lyricism is a trifle salon-leaning but the stormy contrasts pungent and attractive. The Scherzo is decidedly Mendelssohnian and it’s a matter of some regret that Molique didn’t build here on those elements in the earlier trio that make it distinctive. But once again there’s no lack of interest in the buoyant finale, which is well-structured and thoroughly professional.

The booklet is couched in the form of an interview between present-day interlocuters and the composer. I find this kind of thing very twee but at least one garners plenty of information. The performances of Trio Parnassus - violinist Julia Galić, cellist Michael Gross and pianist Johann Blanchard – are typically sympathetic and they’ve been well recorded. Molique was not one to cause musical tectonic plates to shift but the First Trio, certainly, has enough going on to detain you for some time.

Jonathan Woolf

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