MARTINU String Trios Nos. 1 and 2. FRANÇAIX String Trio. ENESCU Aubade • Lendvai String Trio • STONE (55:50)
This collection brings together four works for string trio composed in Paris by one Frenchman (Jean Françaix) and two immigrants: Bohuslav Martinu from Czechoslovakia and Georges Enescu from Romania. The bulk of the program is taken up with Martinu's two trios, which spanned theRead more length of his stay as a young man in the French capital. The First, written in 1923 but only rediscovered six years ago, is instantly recognizable, whereas the Second, of 1934, contains few of the composer’s usual rhythmic or melodic fingerprints. The latter work begins the disc, and the vitality and tautness of its opening is bracingly conveyed by the Lendvai String Trio (Nadia Wijzenbeek, violin, Ylvali Zilliacus, viola, and Marie Macleod, cello). When the music opens up, sounding at times quasi-improvisational, these excellent musicians follow the composer’s mood shifts to the letter. Macleod’s solo passages introducing the lyrical
Poco moderato are beautifully played: fluid phrasing combined with rich tone. The trio’s unanimity of attack and expression is equally impressive. What terrific string players we have these days, and not only in quartets!
The Françaix Trio from 1933 is in four short movements. Like almost all of his music it is perky, high-spirited, and succinct; the Lendvai is very good at teasing out every underlying lyrical impulse, as well as several moments of sheer comedy. Enescu’s Aubade of 1899 jogs along in a relaxed triple meter to round off a charming and unusual program. This is one of the most attractive discs of chamber music to come my way in years.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
One of the perks of being a MusicWeb International reviewer is the receipt of fantastic music that on many occasions just blows you away. If you fancy trying your hand let Len Mullenger know and, who knows, you too could get to hear things you wouldn’t easily come across! This disc is a case in point; it’s not that the music is unknown but let’s face it, if you didn’t already own these works how likely would you be to stumble on them? For me at any rate it was a revelatory experience.
I’m a great Martinu fan – his voice is so utterly distinctive I can usually recognise him within a few minutes, at least in his orchestral works; it’s trickier when it comes to his chamber music. I was listening out for the usual little devices that so easily give him away but apart from some hints around three minutes into the first movement of String Trio No.2 and the climax of that movement I was not doing very well in the identification stakes. No matter; the music is wonderful and full of energy and as far as the players are concerned Martinu certainly makes demands that allow for no relaxation.
The same can said, though, for Jean Françaix who is too often written off as frivolous just because his music is usually very funny - what’s wrong with that I hear you ask – my point exactly. Here too he has his musical jokes as in the first movement when he uses a viola motif to spell out Bach’s name in reverse. The second movement has a cartoon-like quality with cello pizzicato in its central section. The slow movement is much more serious and the main theme is a beautiful one that remains in the brain long afterward. I can imagine it becoming, what I heard Sarah Mohr-Pietsch describe on Radio 3 today as, an “earworm” that refuses to leave. The final movement, however, brings things back to earth with a particularly jaunty tune so typical of Françaix. The whole thing is great fun and very musical.
Martinu’s String trio No.1 comes next and shows him as a master of this combination of instruments; one that so many other composers avoided. The first movement is restless and agitated. It seems to describe a kind of anxiety but since this is done by design it is very effective as much as affecting. The second movement is much more tranquil as if a resolution has been reached. Martinu is nothing if not boundlessly inventive so you won’t find yourself wondering if you haven’t heard the tune before in someone else’s work because you won’t have. The violin plays extremely quietly in the closing passages in the second movement and I took my virtual hat off to Nadia Wijzenbeek for pulling off this effect so seemingly effortlessly. The final movement at last gives some aural hints of Czech folk-dances from around two minutes in. If you were trying to guess the composer you’d have a clue as to where in the world they might be from. This folk-like theme is played with for the rest of the movement which ends with a race for the finishing line.
The final work on the disc is the Aubade for String Trio by Enescu - a work I don’t think I’ve ever heard before but is so immediately recognisable you think you have. This is not because it has been used in his other works or anyone else’s but because of an incredible ability to write catchy tunes. It is a tiny gem and hearing it was like discovering a pearl in an oyster. Another “earworm” in the making? I fully expect so!
The title of the liner notes is: Martinu, Françaix & Enescu – The French Connection. Françaix was French while the other two ended up in Paris; who didn’t in the early years of the 20 th century. It is a nice neat headline and the title of the disc Destination Paris shows the trio on the album cover in a Citroën DS19 (or 21) on their way to a rendezvous with the music of three unique voices – I’m so glad they got there! The only quibble I have apart from a few errors in the text - Polika instead of Policka for Martinu’s birthplace - is the lack of any write-up about the Lendvai String trio. Where are they from, where did they study, did they meet during their studies, and how did they come to name themselves Lendvai – a Hungarian name if I’m not mistaken? This is a mere small point for this is in every way an excellent and exciting disc played with impeccable precision by a fabulous trio. I hope we’ll hear them again - I’m sure we will.
Sonics and SuperlativesJune 25, 2013By michael r. (Arlington, TX)See All My Reviews"The sound is so good, perhaps due to the superb technical execution of it all. It helps that the music on this recording requires--demands--such deliberate high quality playing. I mean, I think you can understand some of the modernist characteristics of this music with the help of the players. Exciting!"Report Abuse
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