With each subsequent CD release, the youthful Claremont Trio seems to be significantly upping the ante in regards to technical and musical demands of its programs. Its debut album featured Mendelssohn's piano trios, followed by a second album of Shostakovich and Arensky trios. This third album, which marks its 10-year anniversary as an ensemble, showcases six piano trios by American composers. All of these works, from Leon Kirchner's First Trio of 1954 to the 2002 String Band of Mason Bates (commissioned by the Claremont Trio), demand the utmost in technical acumen. The Claremont Trio certainly has no shortage of technical skills. Interpretively, the ensemble plays with an abundance of vitality bordering on aggressiveness. While this approach works well in the frenetic opening of Zwilich's piano trio, there's little contrast when playing still, sustained movements like the Largo of Kirchner's first trio. Only so much intensity can be tolerated before a different aesthetic is needed. Of the six works on the program, by far the most engaging and successful is Paul Schoenfield's Café Music. The first movement turns the trio into something of a swing band, and subsequent movements explore a number of contrasting musical vernaculars. The Claremont Trio really hits the nail on the head with this one, shifting easily between the rapidly changing styles. The recording levels on this Tria Records album seem very hot; some of the Trio's excessive edginess could be alleviated with a little added warmth in editing.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Piano Trio No. 1|
|Café Music, for piano trio|