Trios from Our Homelands” – REBECCA CLARKE: Piano Trio; ARNO BABAJANIAN: Piano Trio; FRANK MARTIN: Trio on Pop Irish Melodies – Lincoln Trio – Cedille

by | Oct 20, 2016 | Classical CD Reviews

We got a duplicate of this, so here is a second review opinion on the same recent CD.

“Trios from Our Homelands” – REBECCA CLARKE: Piano Trio; ARNO BABAJANIAN: Piano Trio in f-sharp; FRANK MARTIN: Trio on Popular Irish Melodies – Lincoln Trio – Cedille CDR 9000 165, 64:15 ****:

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) narrowly lost the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Chamber Music Award in 1919 for her Viola Sonata. When Mrs. Coolidge revealed the runner-up, she reported, “You should have seen [the judges’] faces when they saw [the sonata] was written by a woman.” It was unheard of for a woman to be a composer in the early 20th century. Clarke also narrowly lost the award in 1921 for her Piano Trio. She went on to write songs and chamber music and lived until the ripe age of 93. Clarke’s Piano Trio is a work of considerable emotional substance and musical creativity. The piano boldly opens the first movement which theatrically alternates sensitive lyricism with rhapsodic drama, ending quietly. The viola sings a wistful lullaby in the folk-like Andante. The cheerful last movement opens with a dance between the strings and piano which is broken by an ardent interlude. The ending reprises the effervescent beginning. This work is a real discovery: full of incidents of passion, complexity and depth.

The Lincoln Trio has chosen three composers who were outsiders in the classical music world of their time. Their selection of composers also identifies the countries of origin of the three members of their group: England, Armenia and Switzerland. Arno Babajanian (1921-83) was a musical prodigy whose father was proficient performer of Armenian folk instruments. Arno became a professor, pianist and composer in his native land. Babajanian’s music was influenced by Rachmaninoff, Khachaturian and Prokofiev. The rhapsodic first movement of the Piano Trio (1952) eloquently expresses drama as well as melodic tenderness. The Andante is the emotional center of this work—a deeply felt utterance of unrestrained beauty. The last movement has irregular rhythms and a searching cello melody that leads to a frenetic conclusion. This is a wonderful example of a mid-twentieth century modern Romantic piano trio.

The Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974) is known for his brilliantly creative orchestral music as well as his deeply spiritual music for voices. He once remarked, “As the son of a minister, and the son of a minister who has not renounced his faith, religion has affected me twice as strongly.” His Mass for Double Choir and other sacred works are well worth exploring. In this realm, Bach was his major inspiration. But his instrumental music also was influenced by the music of his time: Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg, American jazz and Far-Eastern sonorities. The Trio on Popular Irish Melodies (1925) is an early work that was commissioned by an amateur American musician. Martin saw the commission as a way to research authentic (and less popular) Irish melodies in a Paris library. He used them as a point of departure to expand and re-write them in his own style. The Trio’s popularity is due to bountiful melodies and arresting rhythmic complexity. A contemplative and beautiful Adagio precedes a concluding Gigue, an Irish jig that bounces along in high spirits.

The Lincoln Trio plays these piano trios with fervor and musical intelligence. Cedille’s recording is an ideal mix of clarity and reverberation. The music here is a wonderful example of unknown 20th century music deserving of many performances.

—Robert Moon


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