Hartley Piano Trio

American Piano Trios

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Originally recorded in 1992, this album of American piano trios performed by Britain's Hartley Trio was a good choice for the reissue that appeared in 2010. None of the works, with the possible exception of Henry Cowell's Four Combinations of Three Instruments (which is actually three combinations of two instruments and one of three instruments), ranks among the most frequently performed by its composer, but all shed light on the composers who wrote them. The Hartley Trio is strong throughout, but especially so in the opening Trio in A minor, Op. 150, by Amy Beach, where pianist Caroline Clemmow surmounts the technical challenges of the piano part Beach, a virtuosa in her own right, wrote for herself, even as the ensemble as a whole maintains its sense of balance. The emphasis in Ernest Bloch's Three Nocturnes is on the cello and they would make good companion pieces in concert for Bloch's other cello works such as Schelomo. The lighthearted Ives trio, with its central movement marked "TSIAJ" (This Scherzo Is a Joke), is sometimes played stateside, but European performance of Ives in general that catch the mixture of the humorous and the cosmic in his music as well as this one does are rare indeed. Copland's Vitebsk: Study on a Jewish Theme, dating from 1928, contains a perfect mixture of all his styles, from modern to populist, with a bit of the folkloric thrown in, and it, too, fares very well at the hands of these outsider musicians looking in. The album comes with brief but informative notes, in English only, and the 1992 sound held up well through remastering and reissue.

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