WORKS: Trio for clarinet, viola & piano
PERFORMER: Bruch Trio
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 287
The Bruch Trio’s personnel consists of the viola-player Jesse Levine (chair of String Department at Yale and conductor of the Norwalk and Purchase Symphony Orchestras, no less), the clarinettist Jerry Kirkbride (of the Dorian Wind Quintet since 1970) and the pianist Rex Woods (co-ordinator of keyboard studies at Arizona University, the institution which unites the three musicians). Maybe they are not artists of the very front rank, but their qualifications suggest at least acceptability. Yet listening to their staid playing of the opening movement of Jean Françaix’s delightful work leads one to wonder if they were forced to play this music at sight, or even at gunpoint. Some ridiculously close miking does not help. Thankfully, things quickly do get better all round (though do I detect something akin to very slight tape wow?), and all three make good sounds both individually and together, but the damage is already done, hence the low overall rating beneath.
Nevertheless it’s good to hear the Françaix and Gordon Jacob Trios. They may be conservative pieces for their time (1992 and 1969), by relatively minor composers, but they are workmanlike and well-finished for all that. For my money the Jacob, whose first and third movements have an originality and brooding intensity that may surprise some, emerges as easily the more substantial of the two pieces, though I dislike the throwaway breeziness of his finale. The Mozart did not really need recording again but they make a reasonable job. Stephen Pettitt