Gould Piano Trio

James MacMillan: Fourteen Little Pictures; Franz Schubert: Piano Trio, D.929

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Contrast is the name of the game in this engaging live performance of the Gould Piano Trio. The Wigmore Hall album opens with Fourteen Little Pieces by Scottish-born composer James MacMillan. Regrettably, the liner notes spend a paltry three paragraphs describing this multifaceted composition and offer listeners no information on the composer himself. All but two of the 14 pieces clock in at just over a minute, but in these short time spans, MacMillan explores an abundance of contrasting musical ideas from savage and brutal to placid and serene, from the nearly silent (ppp) to overwhelmingly loud (fffff). His language heavily relies on atonality and moments of extreme dissonance, but these short works are far from amusical or "difficult" to digest. The Gould Piano Trio does a magnificent job of capturing each and every difference and detail in MacMillan's score, truly drawing in listeners and leaving them wanting more. The other half of the program features Schubert's great E flat major Piano Trio, whose length and scope is more than double that of MacMillan's. The Gould Trio changes gears nicely moving the more delicate, filigreed, and subtly nuanced Schubert. The group plays together quite well, matching articulation, bow stroke, vibrato, and pacing with ease. Intonation is generally good, although slips in this area are much more noticeable in the Schubert. While their Schubert is well-executed, there's nothing revelatory or groundbreaking to be heard. The much more vibrant performance of the MacMillan alone, though, makes this album a worthwhile investment.

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