Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trios Nos. 3, 5, 7
TIMPANI 1C1205 (72:56)
The only other work by Napoléon-Henri Reber (1807–1880) in the
Archive is his Fourth Symphony, reviewed by Steven Kruger just a year ago (36:3). Kruger called it “a magnificent discovery,” the very words I would apply to the disc of piano trios at hand. In his review, Kruger wrote that Reber “never bores the listener. Not for a second.” In the Symphony, Kruger
heard “a late Haydn symphony composed by Berlioz, with hints of Rossini and touched up by Schumann,” but in the three trios on the current disc I hear more Schubert touched up by Brahms. Schubert’s gift for pure melody finds its French counterpart in Reber, born just 10 years after the Viennese songmeister. Charlotte Loriot, in her extensive biographical note in the inlay booklet (which far exceeds what
provide on this obscure composer) calls Reber’s music “a serene romanticism,” and indeed it is. There is an almost ineffable sweetness to his themes, a dreamy Schumannesque manner of development, wedded to textures of Brahmsian weight and density. Reber rubbed shoulders with most of the big names in French musical circles at the time: Berlioz, Gounod, Cherubini, Adam, Godard, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, etc. Berlioz and Chopin praised his chamber music.
The trios on this disc date from 1862, 1872, and 1880. Nos. 3 and 5 are billed as recording premieres. It would be foolish to try to pick a favorite. All three are simply gorgeous, full of memorable melodies, engaging developments, rhythmic momentum, harmonic tension and formal craftsmanship. Trio Élégiaque plays them with obvious love for the works in performances brimming with passionate intensity, tempered with balanced sonorities and tasteful molding of the musical lines. Don’t for a moment let Reber’s obscurity color your opinion of his music. If you’re a fan of the chamber music of Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, you owe it to yourself to investigate what Napoléon-Henri Reber has to offer.
FANFARE: Robert Markow
Works on This Recording
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