RAVEL: Piano Trio (1914); DEBUSSY: Cello Sonata (1915) and Violin Sonata (1917); FAURÉ: Piano Trio (1924) – Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch – Nimbus
ARENSKY: Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor; TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in a minor – Trio Wanderer – Harmonia mundi

MAURICE RAVEL: Piano Trio (1914); CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Cello Sonata (1915) and Violin Sonata (1917); GABRIEL FAURÉ: Piano Trio Op. 120 (1924) – Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch – Nimbus NI 5905, 72:38 *****:

ANTON ARENSKY: Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor Op. 32; PIOTR TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in a minor Op. 50 – Trio Wanderer – Harmonia mundi HMC 902161, 71:42 *****:

Piano trios of RAVEL, FAURE, ARENSKY & TCHIAKOVSKY.

Ravel and Debussy are grouped with modern composers, specifically as impressionists even though Debussy did not like the description applied to his music. Regardless, the term is appropriate and separates them from a contemporary such as Fauré who is simply a late romantic.

If you warm to impressionistic music, then this superb disc is a great introduction to some of the French chamber music from the earlier part of the last century. The Ravel Trio is more colorful, probably because it has the third instrument. The two Debussy works strike me as rather dry, but they hold their own and have moments of great beauty and introspection. The Fauré work is on a lesser plane of distinction. It has a more routine character than the Ravel or Debussy works.

The trio group consists of violinist Hagai Shaham, pianist Arnon Erez and cellist Raphael Wallfisch. Wallfisch is certainly familiar, having made over 100 compact discs. As a trio or paired, these musicians demonstrate an insight into this music, achieving a level of excellence which belies the fact that they are not French.

Trio Wanderer (Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian, violin, Raphaël Pidoux, cello and Vincent Coq, piano) is French and as a group celebrated 25 years in 2012. Their ability to present memorable performances of the nearly symphonic Tchaikovsky Trio and the more circumspect Arensky Trio is extraordinary.

The Tchaikovsky has two movements: a first “Pezzo elegiaco” and a second “Tema con Variazioni” (part one) with 11 variations and a “Variazione Finale e Coda” (part two). This composer is known for his ability to spin out wonderful, energetic and memorable melodies. Here he was in his element.

Arensky’s Trio is in four movements. It is good, but not at the same level of inspiration as the Tchaikovsky.

Both discs have been recorded in a demonstration class manner. Both are highly recommended!

—Zan Furtwangler

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