English Piano Trios


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English Piano Trios Review

by Mike D. Brownell

While the names of English composers such as Frank Bridge, Benjamin Britten, John Ireland, and the like are certainly not as unknown as perhaps they once were, piano trios by English composers have been given little attention. This 1996 British Music Society disc seeks to remedy this injustice with a set of four piano trios composed in the first quarter of the 20th century. The first three, each entitled Phantasie, are not formally rigid examples of piano trios. They each have a direct link to the Cobbett competition, in which the aim was to create unique, single movement composition with contrasting sections. Bridge, Friskin, and Ireland were all prizewinners in this competition and their works focus on pleasing melodies, lush harmonies, and intricate counterpoint between the three instruments. Last on the program is a four-movement trio by E.J. Moeran, a student of John Ireland. Here again, the overriding characteristics are soaring melody and rich accompaniment. Both the Moeran and Friskin trios, performed here by Cantamen, are world-premiere recordings and are a welcome addition to the traditional piano trio repertoire. BMS' sound is extremely quiet and listeners will really have to crank the volume to hear everything that's going on. Cantamen's playing is lushly romantic, though the strings are somewhat weak in tone compared to the piano and intonation is not always spotless, particularly from the violin in more active sections.

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