Merz Trio

(CD - Bright Shiny Things #BSTC 0148)

Review by James Manheim

The debut release from the heralded Merz Trio has a unique concept. It presents Ravel's Piano Trio in A minor of 1914, with its four movements split up and surrounded by other "voices that were in the air and on the streets" in that year, to use the performers' words. These voices are both musical and textual, and more broadly, the album, the trio members say, "is about music and words sharing their dark, untidy medium, spilling onto the page as notes and letters and spoken into the world by voices and instruments." This may seem a heavy apparatus, but note that the 1910s were a time of intense cross-genre collaborations in Paris as well as in Vienna. It would not be hard to imagine a musicale in which poems were read and various kinds of music were played or sung. Moreover, the Merz Trio's selections effectively capture a range of material, from a popular song associated with Josephine Baker (Sous les Ponts de Paris) to avant-garde musings of Cocteau. The question is about the Ravel: does it work to split up a carefully balanced work like this? That's for individual listeners to decide, but the playing of this young trio, both precise and evocative, promises much for the future, as does their originality of mind.

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