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Her Voice
Louise FARRENC (1804-1875)
Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 33 in E flat major (1843) [34:54]
Amy BEACH (1867-1944)
Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 150 (1938) [14:56]
Rebecca CLARKE (1886-1979)
Piano Trio (1921) [22:10]
Neave Trio
rec. 2019, Potton Hall, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN20139 [72:04]

The Neave Trio has recorded a couple of Chandos discs exploring the American and French repertoires – American Moments on CHAN10924 and French Moments on CHAN 10996 – but their latest release drops the ‘moments’ conceit for all-female line-up. Whether this Anglo-Franco-American repertoire makes programmatic sense in the context of this single-sex policy I rather doubt (at least I remain unconvinced) - surely these composers stand on their own feet – but it’s on the reviewing table.

The music of Louise Farrenc has slowly been emerging after decades of neglect. The usual line of attack is to note her strong Beethovenian inheritance but her deep-rooted Classicism is confidently handled in her 1843 Trio - the same year, incidentally, that she was appointed to the piano professorship at the Paris Conservatoire. By some way the largest scaled of the three trios in the disc, it also evinces a distinctly Mendelssohnian songfulness in places, as well as a strongly defined sense of characterisation. This performance is similarly sharply defined and warmly textured.

The pleasingly aqueous nature of elements of Amy Beach’s 1938 Trio also admits agitato and Brahmsian piano chording. The trio of the slow movement is almost comic – in execution and one assumes in intention too – and there’s a whiff of elegant nostalgia to this late work though Beach’s rhythmically vivacious finale, tucked up with syncopated figures, has plenty of charm. At a quarter of an hour this hardly outstays its welcome, especially in a reading as committed as this. A good two decades ago Chandos released a version of the trio by the Ambache (CHAN9752) and they prove the more overtly expressive interpreters but you’ll want to hear the Neave Trio’s supple approach.

The final work is Rebecca Clarke’s Trio of 1921. This is by some distance the most resourceful and arresting of the three works. Clarke’s initial poleaxing fanfare and ensuing taut, uneasy figuration is part of a sometimes bleak, reveille-strewn canvas. The aura is plosive, dislocated, melancholic and mired in reflections of the war, just ended. To this element of the music the Neave Trio responds with particular sensitivity as it does to the music’s austere repetitiveness, its tolling figures but also those moments of lyric reprieve. These twin poles are most clear in the finale when the folkloric zest is contrasted with fanfare and reveille – dark, ruminative, forcing one back with renewed introspection to the music’s dualities and correspondences.

The Neave account of the Clarke is rather more dramatic and forceful, though not necessarily more recommendable, than the excellent Martin Roscoe/Endellion Quartet members reading (Andrew Watkinson and David Waterman) on ASV CD DCA932. Both the Beach and Clarke are on Dynamic CDS7717 (review) – another all-female disc, with Lili Boulanger represented - but again the new Chandos is the one to have by virtue of its instrumental finesse and sense of colour. For Farrenc there’s also CPO and Centaur, though I’ve yet to hear those.

Jonathan Woolf

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