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ARTICLE Plain text for smartphones & printers

An A to Z of the Piano Trio Repertoire: End of 2015 Update
by David Barker

This update covers entries in sections A to E, which were either omitted or released after the publication of the survey.  Each entry will be added to its respective section, and I will be working on converting the A, B & C listings to the “new” format of a separate discography, though doing the Brahms and Beethoven discographies will have to wait, given the scale of the job. There will be a delay in releasing the “F” survey, as I am in the process of not just moving house, but moving countries.

Survey Index

Alexander Alyabiev is one of the few Russian composers who predates Glinka, generally seen as the father of Russian music. A new release on Cavi Music includes both his works for trio, very well played by the Beethoven Trio Bonn (review). I hadn’t heard the E flat Trio in one movement before: it is an early work, and while pleasant, is clearly part of Alyabyev’s learning curve. This new performance of the A minor Grand Trio is a substantial improvement on the Chandos recording by the Borodin Trio.

Beethoven Trio Bonn
(+ Piano quintet, Violin sonata)
Cavi Music 8553338

Marco Anzoletti (1867-1929, Italy) is sufficiently obscure not to have an English Wikipedia page. Neither Presto or Arkivmusic list recordings of his music. Little known he may be, but that’s not due to any lack of productivity. A catalogue of his works reports 31 individual pieces for the combination considered in this survey, putting him second only to Haydn in terms of trio output to the best of my knowledge. The trio presented here has some really fine moments – the slow movement is quite gorgeous – but at 45 minutes, it certainly overstretches its resources. It does, however, lead one to wish that more of his output was available.

ArTre Trio
(+ Lazzari)
Phoenix Classics 22160

Alessandro Appignani (1976-, Italy) cites his major influence as Schnittke, but his very brief work trio La Coscienza d'Orfeo doesn't reflect that.  It is simple, almost minimalist, and very tuneful.  What a shame there isn't more of it (review).

Appignani, Turconi, Zigante
(+ other chamber works)
Brilliant Classics 9235

I had mixed feelings about Lera Auerbach's 1996 trio, but her second trio titled Triptych, whilst retaining the brittleness and angularity, is much more consistently appealing.  There are distinct echoes of Shostakovich, especially in the third (of five) movements.

Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio
(+ Schoenfield: Music videos, Chen: Tunes from my home, Newman: Juxt-opposition)
Bridge 9407

Naxos has released a significant recording of three of the major chamber works of Anton Arensky, including the wonderful first trio. In his review, Michael Cookson praises the performances highly, while Brian Reinhart made it a Recording of the Year.

Spectrum Concerts Berlin
(+ Piano quintet, String quartet 2)
Naxos 8573317

The chamber music collection of Judith Bailey (b. 1941, Britain) on Metier includes a single work for trio: the Microminiature No. 1, written in 2000. As the name implies, it is very brief: three movements, each around a minute (review ~ review). The first two are bleak and sparse, the third a contrast with a jaunty rhythm.

Davey Chamber Ensemble
(+ other chamber works)
Metier MSV92101

The Swiss Piano Trio has released their second volume of Beethoven trios with the second of the Opus 1 set and the Ghost trio (review). I didn’t hear the first, and it wasn’t reviewed on these pages. Listening to these two works, I hear good, solid performances which don’t threaten my benchmarks: Trio Wanderer and the Florestan trio. There is a certain heaviness of touch in the wonderfully playful finale of op. 1/2, which isn’t ideal. My sense is that you wouldn’t be disappointed if you chose the Swiss Piano Trio for your Beethoven trios, but you could do much better in the complete sets already mentioned, and a good deal cheaper as well.

Swiss Piano Trio
Audite 97693

Music for Dancers by David Braid (1970-, Britain) doesn't really strike me as being rhythmic enough to dance to, but that may be my ignorance of modern dance.  Its brittle lyricism has some appeal, the harsher moments less so.

Erato Piano Trio
(+ Quartet, piano works, Morning)
Toccata Classics TOCC0149

Adolf Busch (1891-1952, Germany) is better known as a violinist and leader of the Busch quartet, but his compositions have started to attract some attention in the last few years. The two trios recorded here, from 1919 and 1931, are certainly of a style more akin to the late nineteenth century, though with a slight astringency reflecting the times in which they were written. The second trio is more interesting, lighter and somewhat of a French feel to it. However, neither really made much impression on me. They have little in the way of attractive melodies, and tend to ramble somewhat.

Ravinia Trio
(+ Piano quartet)
CPO 7775282

I was very impressed by the Trio of Arno Babadjanian and we now have another recording, which brings the tally to at least eleven recordings. That in itself should suggest the quality of the work, given the relatively limited profile of the composer, and that it was written post-WW2. It is intelligently coupled with two other Armenian trios, one covered by this survey, that being the almost as impressive but significantly briefer work by Gayane Chebotarian. The performances seem fine from a brief listen, and the presence of the trio by Tigran Mansurian makes this a very attractive prospect.

Klinberg, Mannheimer & Wijk
(+ Mansurian)
dB Productions dBCD168

Appropriately Tunes From My Home by Chen Yi (b. 1953, China) is very Chinese, or at least that's how it seems to me based on my admittedly limited exposure to traditional Chinese music.  It is mostly high-pitched, and with melodies that are quite foreign to Western ears.  I can't say that it engaged my affections at all.

Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio
(+ Auerbach: Triptych, Schoenfield: Music videos, Newman: Juxt-opposition)
Bridge 9407

David Conte (b. 1955, USA) has the distinction of being one of the last students of the great Nadia Boulanger. His 2011 trio is intense, shot through with tangy dissonances, but with a melodic bedrock.  The two other chamber works that accompany it are equally impressive.

Nakagoshi, Stern, Miland
(+ Cello sonata, String quartet)
Albany TROY1573

Trio 1790 returns with four trios by a composer I’d not heard of - Johann Denninger (1743-1813, Germany) - and with their usual period instruments. The works are prettily superficial in the usual way of composers of the times, who weren’t named Mozart or Haydn. Our reviewer certainly enjoyed them (review).

Trio 1790
CPO 7779262


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