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Dance! (Minerva Piano Trio)

Minerva Piano Trio (SOMM Recordings)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Ravel: Scenes from Daphnis et Chloé; Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite; plus works by Richard Birchall, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Caroline Shaw
Minerva Piano Trio
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0658   66:08 mins


This curious programme springs some pleasant surprises. The best is saved till last: David Knotts’s remarkably inventive arrangement of three episodes from Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé – ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Danse Gurrière’ (the two movements which feature in Ravel’s Suite No. 1), and the lovely ‘Pantomime’. Bringing out instrumental combinations and sonorities familiar from Ravel’s Piano Trio, Knotts translates the ‘Nocturne’ quite brilliantly: music which can seem becalmed in the ballet itself here sounds intriguing and compelling. ‘Pantomime’s famous flute solo is transformed into an effective showpiece for all three musicians of the Minerva Piano Trio, if not quite persuading one that it improves on the original.

The opening selection of pieces from Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella, arranged by Minerva’s cellist, Richard Birchall, also has its moments: the ‘Andante’ – atmospheric and charmingly played – and the ‘Presto’ – such exuberant fun one doesn’t mind it being repeated more than in Stravinsky’s original. Birchall’s own suite, Contours, is pleasantly diverting if rather indebted to such Russian composers as Prokofiev. This is followed by a misconceived arrangement of Caroline Shaw’s Gustave Le Gray: originally a quasi-extemporisation for solo pianist on Chopin’s eerie Op. 17 Mazurka in A minor, its spirit of ‘living in the moment’ inevitably evaporates when performed by several musicians, making Shaw’s piece seem amorphous and wretchedly thin in inspiration. Some amends are made by Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s My Fleeting Angel, a mercurial three-movement work inspired by a Sylvia Plath story. But in all, despite the spirited performances, this is truly a curate’s egg.


Daniel Jaffé