Swedish composer Elfrida Andrée was one of the most remarkable female classical composers in history. While the nineteenth century represented an explosion of women composers over previous times, many were ghettoized into the realm of sentimental parlor literature and not considered serious players in the game. Andrée was a notable exception; she was reckoned, in Sweden, on an equal footing with not only her Swedish contemporaries among composers, but with prominent figures from greater Europe such as Johannes Brahms. A vocal proponent of women's causes, Andrée was also a close friend to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Swedish Selma Lagerlöf; the Elfrida Andréegymnasiat in Sweden is named after her. However, despite Andrée's prominence in Sweden and as a pioneering force in women's rights, this has not won her a great many recordings; her music was on its way out of the public consciousness even before she died in 1929. What recordings there have been mainly focus on Andrée's orchestral music, organ symphonies (which remain her most often performed works in Sweden), and sacred vocal music. Andrée's chamber music all comes from fairly early in her career; the Piano Trio in C minor here was written when she was 19, and Andrée was 42 when she put the finishing touches on the A minor Piano Quartet; she would write only one more chamber work, a string quartet, afterward.
For its debut disc as an ensemble, the Iceland-based Trio Nordica has done well to pick Andrée as its subject; of these works, only the G minor Trio, dating from 1865, has been recorded before. The playing is respectful, sensitive, and inflamed with the passion that such unrelentingly lyrical music demands; the group never drives the rhythm, keeping it flexible and lightly swinging in faster movements and alert, never dragging, in slow ones while maintaining a lovely sense of ensemble dynamics. Of these works, the A minor Piano Quartet is obviously the most stylistically mature, vaguely reminiscent of Mendelssohn. However, the standout is the earliest piece, the Piano Trio in C minor. It has a special kind of spontaneity and ebullience, particularly in the last movement, its properties of charm especially heightened by this fine performance by the Trio Nordica. All in all, Intim Musik's Elfrida Andrée: Two Piano Trios & Piano Quartet is both a strong and purposeful debut for this group.