Saint-Saëns • Ravel
The Van Baerle Trio are still in their twenties, and should be going places to judge from this appealing and well-planned disc. Violinist Maria Milstein, pianist Hannes Minnaar and cellist Gideon den Herder got together at the Amsterdam Conservatory, were much encouraged by Menahem Pressler and won the Lyon International Chamber Music Competition last year. Their impression of freshness and affection makes for heart-warming listening. Piano buffs will enjoy Minnaar’s exemplary light, firm passagework in the French works, and even if occasionally one wants a fuller sound from the violin, the balance between the players promotes transparency and musical conversation.
Each work is deceptively challenging. Saint-Saëns’s exposed writing and flick-of-a-switch rhythms need to sound effortless, yet one false move and it could all go wrong. It doesn’t. There’s space, energy and terrific timing (try the tricksy off-beat scherzo). The backbone is supple and strong; and the surface sparkles like a Paris boulevard after the rain.
Ackermusik by the Dutch composer Theo Loevendie builds a bridge between Saint-Saëns and Ravel. Its one movement mingles hints of Eastern European folk music, the Classical tradition and the tolling of bells. Folk music influence in the form of the Basque traditions with which the composer grew up is stronger still in Ravel’s Piano Trio. The work requires more meat, if lean and muscular cuts, and the Van Baerles slice with a fine knife, suitably swept up in the work’s mingling of precision and irresistible élan.