Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trio (1839):
Piano Quartet: Scherzo
Trio Parnassus; Thomas Selditz (va)
MDG 303 1665-2 (64: 06)
Gade’s works for piano trio are pragmatic, thorough, technically accomplished, and compact. Their reluctance to sprawl is an advantage as it allows one to concentrate
on their salient features, which include romantic ardor, lyric profusion, and a confident sense of projection. The op. 42 Trio in F Major was written between February 1862 and December 1863, and the vibrant playing of Trio Parnassus and the excellent recording allow a full exploration of its Schumannesque elements. Pianist Chia Chou anchors the performance with considerable strength and finesse, while violinist Yamei Yu essays some effective slides. Michael Gross is the excellent cellist. They bring a fine corporate sense of buoyancy and lyricism to the second movement, an Allegro molto vivace. (However, I was able to go back to the first-ever recording of this movement, in a 1917 performance by Albert Sammons, W.H. Squire, and William Murdoch, and there you will find a far greater sense of characterization and intensity.) The Andantino is a rather lovely Lied, rich in legato, and the finale rings with an almost Mendelssohnian panache.
The 1854 Novelettes are possibly as well known as the trio. There are five miniatures in all, and one explicitly quotes Schumann. They’re played with genuine poise, with fine unisons, excellent soliloquies, and a judicious balance. The plangent elements of the Larghetto are as well explored as the more bucolic, folkloric elements of the central Moderato. The discarded finale to the Novelettes in the original 1853 version—Gade revised the work in 1854—is also included, and it’s a fiery and confident affair. The projected four-movement Piano Trio of 1839 never materialized and all that remains is the opening movement, a solid 12-and-a-half-minute affair opening with an
section and moving on to the
Allegro con fuoco
. Sketches do exist of the inner movements, but nothing remains of the finale. It’s a very strongly programmatic movement, and fortunately Gade’s narrative has survived, a typically romantic one, reprinted in the liner note. But it’s not at all necessary to know this narrative to appreciate the slow, intense introduction and the extroverted
replete with passionate declamation. The Scherzo for a piano quartet (1836) is a youthful, big-boned work strongly reflecting Gade’s absorption of Mendelssohn once again.
I referred earlier to the recording quality, which certainly enhances this traversal of the complete piano trio works materially and so too, obviously, the playing. There is a fine performance of the op. 42 and the Novelettes by the Abegg Trio on Tacet 112, but that is coupled with the Chopin Trio. So if your priority is wholly Gade, then this MDG fits the bill perfectly.
FANFARE: Jonathan Woolf
Works on This Recording
Scherzo for Piano Quartet by Niels Gade
Michael Gross (Cello),
Chia Chou (Piano),
Yamei Yu (Violin),
Thomas Selditz (Viola)
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