Café Music / Trio Solisti

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CAFÉ MUSIC Tr Solisti BRIDGE 9296 (64:42)

PIAZZOLLA Las estaciones porteñas (arr. Bragato/Bachmann). Le grand tango (arr. Kutnowski). SCHOENFIELD Café Music. TURINA Piano Trio No. 2. GERSHWIN (arr. Bachmann) Porgy and Bess: It Ain’t Necessarily So

This is a party disc, and it ain’t necessarily a tea party—not the way these musicians launch themselves into the sultry Latin world of Piazzolla, or recreate the bustling ragtime band of Schoenfield. The trio is made up of violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, and pianist Jon Klibonoff. Anyone who knows their other recordings (Bachmann and Klibonoff’s Ravel Sonata for starters, or Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy , written for the trio plus clarinet) will know how completely these players go for it. This release of high-class light music is no exception to their rule. (Incidentally, Robert Maxham contributed a fascinating interview with Bachmann in Fanfare 30:6.)

The two works by Piazzolla are quite well known by now, admittedly in various differing arrangements. Both were originally scored for the composer’s mixed ensemble. While the absence of the bandoneón (Piazzolla’s instrument) is to be regretted, the combination of piano, violin, and cello suits his music in terms of punchy rhythmic attack and (in this case) an expressive use of portamento . Special effects are also employed: in The Seasons , some of the original percussion part is rapped out on the cello, and at the opening of the “Fall” movement Bachmann provides an eerie wind-like sound—or rather her violin does—produced by playing on the wrong side of the bridge with hard pressure.

A gentler approach is needed for Turina, chief among a number of composers who brought music of the Basque region of Spain into the salon. Turina’s chamber works with piano are possibly the most congenial part of his output. In three brief movements, his Second Piano Trio of 1926 combines the spirit of Spanish dance with the textures of Debussy and Ravel. Again, Trio Solisti faces the music with a sure sense of the style required.

The three-movement suite, Café Music, by Detroit-born Paul Schoenfield, has been recorded at least twice before. In my experience, Schoenfield’s jazzy and occasionally sentimental klezmer-inflected music divides listeners. Personally, I succumb to it completely. Café Music offers a soulful bluesy lament flanked by boisterous ragtime that brings to mind the soundtracks of animated “jazz” cartoons of the 1930s. A virtuosic performance by James Ehnes, Edward Arron, and pianist Andrew Russo exists on an all-Schoenfield CD (reviewed in 31:5), but this new one is its equal. Bachmann evinces an even more personal identification with the material than does the sweet-sounding Ehnes, and Klibonoff is only a little less dazzling than Russo.

In the final track, Bachmann offers her own version of the Heifetz arrangement of “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” newly rearranging the piece to include cello. At times here, I thought the bluesy slides from both stringed instruments crossed the fine line from idiomatic into queasy. Despite that, the disc is smartly integrated as a program, and easily greater than the sum of its parts. Sound is close and detailed. In short: a good time that should be had by all.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 12, 2009

  • Catalog Number: BCD9296

  • UPC: 090404929625

  • Label: Bridge Records

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Astor Piazzolla, George Gershwin, Joaquin Turina, Paul Schoenfield

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Trio Solisti

  • Performer: Alexis Pia Gerlach, Jon Klibonoff, Maria Bachmann