Chausson: Concert, Piano Trio / Meadowmount Trio, Wihan Quartet
Chausson did not commit himself to a musical career until he was twenty-six years old. The first fruits of that resolution were the fine songs of Op.2 and the Piano Trio Op.3. While the latter work possesses definite structural immaturities and is occasionally melodramatic, it also shows that the composer’s melodic gift and surpassing sense of thematic development were in evidence right from the beginning.
The introduction to Chausson’s Piano Trio is based on two themes that reappear throughout the work, generating other themes and insuring thematic unity. The stormy, almost morose, first movement proper demonstrates the composer’s already distinctive voice, especially in the development. The scherzo second movement has none of the drama of the first, being a rollicking and affectionate parody of the styles of some of the composer’s contemporaries. The massive slow movement starts out in a mood similar to that of the first, but becomes even more elegiac and wistful. The emotional level occasionally becomes strident, but the composer’s sincerity is unquestionable. The animé last movement starts off cheerfully, but themes from the first and third movements keep popping up, increasing the level of seriousness, and the movement ends quite austerely.
By 1889, almost a decade after the Piano Trio, Chausson had reached full artistic maturity. This is evident in the Concert, his best-known chamber work. The piece is not a concerto in the usual sense, but a sort of update of the concerto grosso, with the six instruments combining in different ways as well as playing all together. The first movement’s motto theme undergoes wonderful transformations in combination with a more lyrical second theme. The Sicilienne forms a gentle interlude between the weightier first and third movements, with the latter being something of a lament. The final movement continues the seriousness of its predecessor, but the overall feeling gr adually becomes one of tremendous vitality.
The Meadowmount Trio - their name derives from long-term residence at the music camp of that name - shows a of lot energy in their performance and Eric Larsen is especially to be commended for keeping things moving, although even he flags in the last movement. Larsen and the Meadowmount’s Stephen Shipps join the esteemed Wihan Quartet in the Concert and overall the six players form a cohesive unit, achieving quite a distinctive performance. Recording quality is fairly sumptuous by Naxos standards, although the violins are somewhat shrill. Altogether, a pair of moving and exciting performances.
-- William Kreindler, MusicWeb International
Catalog Number: 8572468
Composer: Ernest Chausson
Orchestra/Ensemble: Meadowmount Trio, Wihan String Quartet
Performer: Eric Larsen, Stephen Shipps