Lincoln Trio

Trios from our Homelands: Rebecca Clarke, Arno Babajanian, Frank Martin

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The concept behind this release from the Chicago label Cedille, which boasts no less than U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among its donors, is that each of the three members of the U.S.-based Lincoln Trio has chosen a work from his or her ancestral country. The album works well on the basis of this idea alone; violinist Desirée Ruhstrat (Switzerland), cellist David Cunliffe (Britain), and pianist Marta Aznavoorian (Armenia) have all picked works that are fairly well known in these countries, but not so much beyond, and all three are worth greater exposure. But this is one of those recordings that gives you the sense of continuing to peel back layers and finding something new at each one. For example, each work uses folk materials in different ways; all are modern in spirit, but none really follow the pattern laid down by the big exemplar in this field, Béla Bartók. Perhaps the Swiss work, Frank Martin's Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises (yes, its material is Irish, not Swiss), is the highlight here, with its compact, rhythmically shifting elaboration of an Irish jig in the finale making a good place to start with sampling. But both of the other pieces are equally good. Rebecca Clarke's Trio of 1922 took second place in an American chamber music competition that year, much to the dismay of the all-male judging panel; its three parts are all difficult for the players, and the fiddle-like part for the violin in the finale is unusual indeed. The trio by Armenian composer Arno Babajanian is more conservative, but likewise distinctive. The players approach this music with freshness and technical aplomb. A highly enjoyable release of music from the 20th century mainstream.

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