Beach: Violin Sonata in A minor; String Quartet in One Movement; Piano Trio

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LABELS: Arabesque
WORKS: Violin Sonata in A minor; String Quartet in One Movement; Piano Trio
PERFORMER: Lark Quartet; Joanne Polk (piano)
The music of the American pianist-composer Amy Beach was conservative in inclination, and this disc shows that she moved only a little with the times. The Violin Sonata of 1896 is essentially Brahmsian in its soaring melodic lines and sonorous textures. The slow introduction and coda of the one-movement String Quartet of 1921 are highly chromatic in the manner of Franck; the work’s inclusion of traditional Inuit melodies does not betoken any obvious folkiness in general style. The Piano Trio, written in 1938 when Beach was seventy, begins with rippling arpeggios suggesting that she had moved on at least to Fauré; and another Inuit melody in the finale brings a momentary whiff of American syncopation, albeit recalling Dvorák rather than Copland. However, what is more important than the music’s progressiveness, or lack of it, is that it is well constructed, beautifully written for all the instruments, and full of ideas which attract and retain the interest. And these performances by the Beach specialist Joanne Polk and the Lark Quartet are exemplary, as is the recording. So if you already have Beach’s superb Piano Quintet in your collection, and are keen to discover more, this is the obvious next step. Anthony Burton