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Smetana, Rose & Rachmaninov Piano Trios

Piano trios by Smetana, Lawrence Rose and Rachmaninov

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Catalogue Number: 5060192781175


‘A Rose between two thorns’ doesn’t quite work here – most of the thorns as well as an unearthly fragrance at times belong to the big central work, [Lawrence] Rose’s 2019 Piano Trio. A master of unconventional form, taking only the broadest cues here from the seven-movement continuity of Beethoven’s Op. 131 String Quartet, Rose sacrificed composing for the law but has since made up for lost time. Like Smetana and Rachmaninov – and indeed like most composers when they took up the piano trio form – he has much to lament, in this case USA shootings and war crimes in Syria which lie behind the cumulative elegy of the final movement. Despite that, and constant reference to a Passacaglia theme, the essence is mercurial, sometimes even playful, and the light which shines though allows the work to end in peace. It’s certainly a richly wrought and fascinating addition to the piano trio repertoire. While Rachmaninov’s youthful homage to Tchaikovsky – still alive at the time – follows the lessons of the master with its own impressive themes, Smetana’s early work teems with originality, both in tragic pathos (he was mourning the loss of his four-year old daughter) and in structural ingenuity. Violinist Ruth Rogers and cellist Katherine Jenkinson are captured with respective brilliance and resonance by the recording. (BBC Music)

With a discography including two volumes of Haydn (Naxos), the piano trios of Saint-Saëns (Guild, 11/14) and newer works by Rob Keeley (Naxos) and Thomas Hyde (Guild), the Aquinas Piano Trio are clearly at home in a wide repertoire, as is reflected in the works heard on this new release. Interest centres on the Piano Trio (2019) by Lawrence Rose who, now in his late seventies, turned exclusively to composition after a career in law and relocating to Chicago. The work is cast in seven movements, with anticipatory or recollective links drawing these into a cohesive yet intentionally non-seamless whole. Most impressive are the second-movement passacaglia with its combative dialogue for strings and piano, then the final Largo, whose elegiac intensity pointedly underlines those mass shootings and war crimes such as provided the creative spur. The Aquinas make a persuasive case for this work and hardly sound less assured in the other pieces. The discursive initial movement of the Smetana (1854) is trenchant and forthright but with enough expressive poise to avoid hectoring, while the interplay of dance rhythms in the Scherzo or emotional volatility reaching uneasy catharsis in the finale are tangibly conveyed. Nor does the overall sombreness of Rachmaninov’s G minor (1892) lack expressive variety, its single movement accruing real fervency before withdrawing into Tschaikovskian fatalism. (Gramophone)

Track listing
  1. Smetana: Piano   Trio Op. 15 – I – Moderato assai – Più animato
  2. Smetana: Piano Trio Op. 15 – II – Allegro, ma non agitato
  3. Smetana: Piano Trio Op. 15 – III – Finale. Presto
  4. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – I –   Allegro moderato
  5. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – II – Larghetto – Allegro moderato
  6. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – III – Allegro – Adagietto
  7. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – IV – Adagietto
  8. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – V – Vivace – Adagietto
  9. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – VI – Allegro moderato – Adagio
  10. Rose: Piano Trio Op. 26 – VII   – Largo – poco meno mosso
  11. Rachmaninov: Trio Élégiaque No. 1