American Moments: Piano trios by Korngold, Bernstein and Foote by the Neave Trio

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COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Foote,Korngold
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: American Moments
WORKS: Piano trios by Korngold, Bernstein and Foote
PERFORMER: Neave Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10924

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Interesting to start an American disc with Korngold’s Op. 1: the little Korngold, who was all of 12 when he began this startlingly full-blooded and sophisticated piece, was still utterly Viennese and would never have dreamed he’d end up in Hollywood. Its musical flavour is lyrical, typically bittersweet, springing audibly from the world of Mahler, Strauss and Viennese schwung.

While the youthful composer was hard at work on that piece in 1909, Arthur Foote’s Piano Trio No. 2 was published in the US and it proves the highlight of the CD. Beautifully constructed and slightly Fauré-esque, with a nod or several towards Brahms, it makes a fine impression and leaves one wanting to know more about its under-recognised Bostonian composer. Bernstein’s trio is a much later creation and shifts with engaging flexibility between rigour, ruggedness and humour.

If the Neave Piano Trio does not make all they might out of the contrasts between the composers, they do perhaps show their similarities. They don’t always deal convincingly with the young Korngold’s slight tendency to ramble and complicate his writing, and violinist Anna Williams’s continual portamentos can sometimes seem exaggerated. Eri Nakamura’s clear-toned pianism is very classy indeed, though, and enlivens throughout. The trio offers a strong sense of partnership, with the Bernstein bounding along in fine spirit. The Foote shines wonderfully and is well worth discovering.

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Jessica Duchen