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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello, Piano & Orchestra, Op. 56
  • Trio in E Flat Major, Op. 1 #1
Claremont Trio
San Francisco Ballet Orchestra/Martin West
Bridge 9395
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I've already spoken about as highly as I can about the work of conductor Martin West and his terrific ballet orchestra, and Bridge is known for equally wonderful programming. That leaves the Claremont Trio. Bridge makes a big deal of how attractive these three young ladies are with admittedly eye-catching packaging. But tackling Beethoven, to be frank, takes more than beauty, either physical or tonal. So it's good to know that violinist Emily Bruskin, cellist Julia Bruskin, and pianist Andrea Lam are largely up to the task.

I say largely because the Triple Concerto features some slightly mannered phrasings and iffy intonation. But that's quibbling; the work itself isn't that great to begin with. All three soloists work so well together within the orchestral framework that you could be forgiven for thinking this is major Beethoven. In particular, the fleet and joyous finale brings the work to a wholly satisfying conclusion. The rest of the work is paced in what I would tentatively call "traditional tempos", with the Trio set quite naturally in the sonic picture. Martin West is a fine, fine conductor who does the one job this work really requires; keep it moving. There are far, far worse "Triples" out there, and Bridge records everyone very well.

The Clarmont Trio seems more comfortable at this point in chamber music than in working with an orchestra. That at least in some way justifies my concern regarding chamber musicians recording concerti, but that's another discussion. My editorial carping aside, it must be said that the Trio plays Beethoven very well, so it's the context as opposed to the idiom that seems to have bothered them in the concerto. The Trio in E-Flat is a marvelous piece of music any way you look at it, and the three young ladies play confidently and are captured in a wonderful acoustic. Whether you need a very good concerto coupled with a really fine trio is up to you. Bridge supplies fine notes, and as a program the disc is highly recommendable. It may not be one of the label's essential efforts, but it showcases four outstanding artists in music they care about. In today's market, that certainly counts for something, and merits your attention.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman