David Adams / Gould Piano Trio

Stanford: Piano Trio No. 2; Piano Quartet No. 1

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The second in a pair of similar releases by Britain's Gould Piano Trio, this 2015 album offers the reverse of the first album's program: here are a later piano trio and an earlier piano quartet. (This time, however, there's no room for the little Irish-flavored pieces that represent the other side of Stanford's musical personality.) The chamber music of Irish-born Charles Villiers Stanford has been largely neglected outside the British Isles, but both these releases make a strong case for its revival. Both these works show the influence of Brahms in many ways: in the heavily motivic development in the outer movements, opening harmonic instability giving way to themes of lyrical repose in the slow movements, dense but rhythmically driving scherzos. Indeed, there are moments when a quizzed listener not familiar with the entire Brahms chamber corpus might identify Brahms as the composer. That said, there are few of the big tunes that with Brahms instantly grab and challenge listeners to explore the labyrinth beneath. Yet that labyrinth is there: these are richly complex works, and they're given fine, well-considered performances that are part of a tradition of Brahms enthusiasm dating back to the late 19th century at the Royal Academy of Music, where the Gould Piano Trio was formed. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the British Romantics.

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