Tailleferre, Fontyn, Ravel

Morgenstern Trio

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Tailleferre, Fontyn, Ravel Review

by James Manheim

The notes to this release by the German-French Morgenstern Trio hasten to assure the reader that the presence of two female composers is not the rationale for the program, as if that were really necessary. Instead the purpose is to explore the influence of Ravel, whose wondrous Piano Trio in A minor of 1914 concludes the program. It is undoubtedly true that both of the first two composers represented would have known Ravel's trio well, so the program succeeds when measured against its specific objectives. The music itself is a mixed bag. The Piano Trio of Germaine Tailleferre, an unjustly forgotten member of Les Six, may be unique in the annals of music in terms of time elapsed between genesis and completion. Tailleferre began the work in 1916, almost on the heels of Ravel's, but it was set aside when the composer was displaced by World War I and not resumed until 1978. Nevertheless, some would be hard pressed to figure out where the joints are. The work is very much in the Ravel mode, but is more gently melodic, diverging from the grand lyricism that gives the Ravel trio its flavor, and it's a pairing that works well. The Piano Trio of Belgian composer Jacqueline Fontyn, composed in 1956, has the forceful quality of the Ravel, and the performance has the added virtue of having been discussed with the composer, who is still living. Still, it's the least successful of the three works on the album; it sounds like a twelve-tone exercise, which is exactly what it was. On balance, this is an intriguing program that will appeal to fans of 20th century music in the French sphere.

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