The combination of oboe, clarinet and bassoon attracted several French composers in the first half of the last century and inspired witty and elegant divertissements from the likes of Ibert, Francaix and Poulenc. But the character of the trio held an appeal to composers farther afield, as this album shows, and that appeal was by no means confined to ‘light music’, even if all the music on this album – from Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – shares a lightness and airiness of texture. The composers from eastern Europe – Lutoslawski, Schulhoff and Veress – all suffered under totalitarian regimes, and Schulhoff died at the hands of the Nazis, but their painful histories do not cast a long shadow over the pieces on this album. In fact, the origins of Lutoslawski’s Trio are found precisely in the exercises of counterpoint he realized in the winter of 1944-5, when he had been forced to flee Warsaw, together with his mother, following the consequences of the Warsaw Rising. The Trio is a quirky, restlessly experimental work. The wind trio as laboratory also held appeal to Sandor Veress, who found a very personal synthesis of his own research into Hungarian folksong with the 12-tone theories of the Second Viennese School. The outer movements of his Sonatina abound in the madcap humor of his compatriot Ligeti, while the central Andante introduces a gravely memorable theme on the bassoon. Schulhoff’s Divertissement is naturally the most French-sounding work on the album, a set of seven compact character sketches including a Charleston (No.4) and ‘Florida’ (No.6). Known in some quarters as the ‘Russian Brahms’ from the country of his birth, Paul Juon is the least-known figure here, but not the least accomplished, and his Arabesque is a substantial, four-movement structure launched in fine style by Commodo movement with echoes of Nielsen at his breeziest.
Three of the trios are placed solidly in the early to mid-20th Century, but the Juon could be described as Straussian, definitely having its roots in the late 19th Century, though modern in its elegant way. Anyone who appreciates winds should have at least one recording of these selections.
– American Record Guide