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The Classical Explorer

Chamber Music: July 2008 Archives

Chamber Music From An Opera Composer

CPO 999721

Heinrich Marschner

Piano Trio #2 in G Minor, Op. 111 (1841)
Piano Trio #5 in D Minor, Op. 138 (1848)

Beethoven Trio Ravensburg
CPO 999721-2 70:51

Much better known as a composer of operas, Marschner also left considerable quantities of orchestral and chamber music among which are seven piano trios. The two under consideration are quite extended works which owe more than a little to better-known composers of the period, not least Mendelssohn.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Chamber Music from the Belle Époch

Hyperion 67391

Reynaldo Hahn

Sonata in C Major for Violin & Piano (20:12)
Soliloque et Forlane for Viola & Piano (7:42)
Romance in A Major for Violin & Piano (4:27)
Piano Quartet #3 in G Major (21:57)
Si mes vers avaient des alles (1:53)
Nocturne in E Flat Major for Violin & Piano (5:30)

Stephen Coombs, piano
Ccharles Sewart, violin
Yuko Inoue, viola
Philip De Groote, cello
Hyperion CDA67391 62:01

Hahn was a composer, a conductor, a performer, and a respected music critic. He was most popular before World War I (the Belle Époch) but subsequently fell out of fashion. He was often classified as a mere "salon" composer – with much of his music considered lightweight because it is immediately appealing and accessible. Fortunately for us, his music has come back into favor among recording artists.

If this sonata were not as hauntingly melodious and touching, it would simply be a curiosity, a total musical anachronism. Hahn wrote this sonata in 1926, yet in a blindfold test, one might guess it was sibling to the first Fauré (1877) or Franck (1886) violin sonatas. But the Hahn Violin Sonata is one of those rare gems that can always appeal to the musician and the listener. The form is classical, and the last movement of the sonata reprises the beautiful first movement melody, making a satisfactory arch. The second movement moves lickety-split, amusing and witty – only lasting for slightly over three minutes. This movement is very much in the jolly spirit of the third movement of the Op. 13 violin sonata of Fauré.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Complete Piano Trios by Lalo

MD&G 3030482

Édouard Lalo

Piano Trio #1 in C minor, Op. 7
Piano Trio #2 in B minor
Piano Trio #3 in A minor, Op. 26

Trio Parnassus
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3030482-2 77:59

Lalo performed with a professional string quartet first as a violist, and then as a violinist, so it is no wonder that his chamber music compositions are totally idiomatic for strings. The first two trios were written in the early 1850's and the third was written in 1880. The clear influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn is heard in all three, but the third trio also has the very exciting cross-rhythms reminiscent of Lalo's more famous works for violin and cello. These are very fine performances by the Trio Parnassus (Chia Chou, piano; Wolf-Dieter Streicher, violin; Michael Gross, violoncello)!

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[ Sheet Music for Trio #2 is available at Edition Silvertrust
More sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Hungarian String Quartets

Hungaroton 31687

Leó Weiner

String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 4 (1906)
String Quartet in F Sharp Major Op.13 (1921)
String Quartet in G Major (Pastorale, Fantasy & Fugue) Op. 26 (1934)

Auer String Quartet
Hungaroton HCD31687 74:19

Weiner's Second String Quartet is not Hungarian in the sense of borrowed folk-tunes, although Weiner did develop an interest in the extensive folk-research of Bartók, Kodály, and Lajtha. Instead, Weiner makes excellent use of folk rhythms, harmonic modes and spirit. He also has a wonderful melodic gift, and a totally idiomatic string writing sense.

For a short time before World War I, Weiner was more popular than his contemporaries, but this popularity faded and now he is hardly known. This CD by the Auer Quartet (Gábor Sipos & Zsuzanna Berentés, violins; György Gulyás Nagy, viola; Ákos Takás, cello) and a few others that have recently appeared, should help bring his neglected music the attention and acclaim that it deserves.

I would heartily recommend listening to this entire recording as a preparation for fuller appreciation of the somewhat more daunting six String Quartet masterpieces of Bartók, because Weiner's quartets, especially the Second, speak the same language but with more familiar accents.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Early Chamber Music

Timpani 1077

Paul Le Flem

Quintet for Piano & Strings in C minor 36:40
Sonata for Violin & Piano (1905) 28:57

Louvigny String Quartet
Alain Jacquon, piano
Timpani 1C1077

Le Flem's quintet sounds like it is a close relative of Ravel's string quartet or Faure's first piano quartet both in tonality and in emotional evocations. This haunting chamber music deserves a wider audience. The playing by Jacquon and the Louvigny String Quartet (Philip Koch & Fabian Perdichizzi, violins; Ilan Schneider, viola; Aleksandr Kramouchin, cello) is excellent, and the entire CD is an impressionist treat.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]