"Swiss Perspective" = Trio Note Bene. Raff: Piano Trio No. 1; Bloch: Three Nocturnes; Honegger: Piano Trio in F Minor; Martin: Trio on Popular Irish Folk Tunes. Trio Nota Bene. Claves 50-2912 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
This beautifully programmed disc of diverse, entertaining, and unknown piano trios is performed to absolute perfection and given a recording of stunning immediacy and presence. All of the composers on this disc were born in Switzerland, the members of the Trio Note Bene were trained at the Lausanne Conservatory and Claves is a Swiss recording label. The note booklet is decorated with snow photos like a Swiss calendar. Hence the title: “Swiss Perspective.”
Tchaikovsky, in his diary of Oct. 9, 1886, wrote: “Played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard! It irritates me that this self-conscious mediocrity should be recognized as a genius. In comparison with him, Raff was a giant…” The longest work on this CD is the Piano Trio by Joachim Raff (1822-1882 ). Mendelssohn thought highly of Raff and Liszt was his teacher. In the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, Raff’s Im Walde Symphony (1869) was one of the two most played symphonic works. After listening to his Piano Trio, it’s easy to see why. The melodies are easily spun and not without contrasting material that engage the intellect. The emotional center is the middle slow movement, flat out gorgeous in a calm manner. The last movement is high spirited and exciting. Anyone who likes the Mendelssohn or Schumann Piano Trios will like this work.
Each of the remaining 20th century piano trios on this disc is emotionally enticing and musically substantive. Ernest Bloch’s (1880-1959) Three Nocturnes are rhapsodic in a different way – the first meditative and mysterious, the second a gorgeously yearning lullaby and the third anxious, even contentious. Arthur Honegger’s (1892-1955) early Piano Trio (1914) exhibits the conflict between romanticism and modernism that makes his music so interesting and likeable. He integrates an abrasive, rather angry theme with a tuneful one creating an absorbing drama – all in less than four minutes! When a rich American commissioned Frank Martin to write a composition using Irish themes, he found fourteen of them in a Parisian library and wrote his Trio on Popular Irish Folk Themes (1925). Of course, Martin used his compositional genius to create a vibrant high spirited 15 minute work pregnant with jazzy rhythms and a wacky Ives-like finale based on an Irish jig. Scintillating!
One of the pleasures of reviewing CDs is to ‘find’ previously unknown musicians who are so good that they just blow you away! Trio Nota Bene are such a group – rhythmically incisive, intonationally perfect, and interpretively brilliant. With a recording that beautifully communicates their musicality, this is a great recording. Don’t miss it!
— Robert Moon