Benjamin Godard was born in 1849 (the year of Chopin's death) into a well-off Paris family. He showed exceptional talent very early on, and at the age of sixteen he had already tried his hand at composition by writing a violin sonata. His most important teacher was Vieuxtemps, the famous Belgian violinist, who later Godard considered like a fatherly friend. Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann were his role models, but he detested Wagner both for his music and his anti-Jewish sentiments. Generally associated with salon music (a misguided perception), Godard wrote symphonies, concertos, operas, of which "Jocelyn" is the most famous, chamber music, over a hundred songs and a huge amount of piano pieces, many of which are considered too demanding. In 1887 he was made professor of instrumental ensemble at the Paris Conservatoire, but five years later he contracted consumption and died in Cannes in 1895 aged just 45. A street in Paris is named after him.
The two piano trios on this disc were composed during the 1880's, that part of Godard's life which was to be his most productive period. Although the Op. 72 is markedly more dramatic than its predecessor, both works are permeated by many cheerful and playful moments, although the odd echo of sadness occasionally filters through the generally sparkling mood of both trios. The issue is completed by the delightful and gentle "Berceuse" from the opera "Jocelyn", which to this day remains Godard's most performed piece.
The performances by Trio Parnassus are exhilarating throughout, and their superb sense of ensemble has an intensity that is both arresting and compelling. An invaluable addition to the thin Godard discography in fine sound and annotations.
Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech