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Saint-Saens, Loevendie, Ravel: Piano Trios / Van Baele Trio

Van Baele Trio / Minnaat / Milstein / Den Herder
Release Date: 06/12/2012 
Label:  Etcetera Records   Catalog #: 1438   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Camille Saint-SaënsTheo LoevendieMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Maria MilsteinHannes MinnaatGideon Den Herder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Van Baerle Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



SAINT-SAËNS Piano Trio No. 1. LOEVENDIE Ackermusik. RAVEL Piano Trio Van Baerle Trio ET’CETERA 1438 (66:07)


Ravel’s widely recorded and frequently performed Piano Trio is a staple of the repertoire. Saint-Saëns’s chamber works, on the other hand, despite the composer’s popularity in other genres, are not heard that often. But shoehorned on this disc between Ravel’s Read more well-known 1914 Piano Trio and Saint-Saëns’s lesser known but hardly obscure Piano Trio No. 1 of 1863 is an eight-and-a-half minute piece titled Ackermusik , written in 1997 by Dutch composer Theo Loevendie (b.1930).


For the benefit of those who have never heard of Loevendie, he studied composition and clarinet at the Amsterdam Conservatory and, up until 1968, dedicated himself almost exclusively to jazz, performing with his own ensemble at Europe’s main jazz festivals. Beginning in 1968, Loevendie began to focus on writing concert music. His compositions, which are frequently performed at both regular concerts and at festivals all over the world (so says his biography), include concertos for piano, violin, and clarinet, and Seyir , a work for 25 western and non-western instruments premiered at the Berlin Festival in 2002. In 2003, Loevendie founded the ensemble Ziggurat, a combination of western and non-western instruments, and has since favored it with a number of compositions.


One of my heartier laughs came from reading the album’s program note in which Loevendie is quoted as exclaiming to his own surprise the first time he heard Ackermusik performed, “It’s just like Brahms!” So I rushed to my Brahms collection to see if I could find the work Loevendie thought his piece resembled. Strange flutterings, like an eclipse of moths taking wing, issue forth from the piano, as the cello drones on two low bass notes and the violin slithers up and down its strings as if the instrument’s fingerboard is slathered with cream cheese frosting. Brahms indeed! On acid, maybe. If I wanted to be kind, I could say that Ackermusik is one of those atmospheric mood pieces that creates a semi-somnolent, surreal, out-of-body experience. But everything about this style of writing—tone-clusters, klangfarbe , and fragmentary flurries of notes and rests—was already out of date when Loevendie composed Ackermusik in 1997. Yet it’s understandable why the Van Baerle Trio should want to include Loevendie’s opus on its program, for its members hail from the Amsterdam Conservatory, Loevendie’s alma mater.


When it comes to the Ravel Piano Trio, one is spoiled for choice; there are over 60 versions currently listed. A favorite of mine continues to be the Icicle Creek’s version, which, coupled with Schubert’s E?-Major Piano Trio, made my 2009 Want List. But there are so many fine versions to choose from, including the always reliable Beaux Arts Trio and another favorite of mine, the Rembrandt Trio, which, on its 1993 Dorian CD (now on Sono Luminous), coincidentally also includes the Saint-Saëns F-Major Trio on offer here, along with the G-Minor Piano Trio by Cécile Louise Chaminade, which happens to show up in a new recording reviewed elsewhere in this issue.


The Van Baerle Trio is excellent in the Ravel and Saint-Saëns, though I’m not prepared to say the ensemble bests available alternatives. For me, Loevendie’s eight-and-a-half minutes of moth music is a waste of disc space. If the Ravel and Saint-Saëns coupling appeals to you, I’d steer you to the Rembrandt CD, which offers the much more compatible Chaminade as a discmate. Otherwise, I find no fault with the Van Baerle’s very fine readings and Et’Cetera’s admirable recording.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello no 1 in F major, Op. 18 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Maria Milstein (Violin), Hannes Minnaat (Piano), Gideon Den Herder (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Van Baerle Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863; France 
2.
Ackermusik by Theo Loevendie
Performer:  Maria Milstein (Violin), Hannes Minnaat (Piano), Gideon Den Herder (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Van Baerle Trio
3.
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in A minor by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Maria Milstein (Violin), Hannes Minnaat (Piano), Gideon Den Herder (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Van Baerle Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; France 

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