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Helen Grime • C Schumann • R Schumann • Huw Watkins: Piano Trios etc

Odysseus Piano Trio (Ty Cerdd)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Grime • C Schumann • R Schumann • Watkins
Helen Grime: Whistler Miniatures; R Schumann: Six Studies in Canonic Form; Huw Watkins: Piano Trio No. 1; C Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor
Odysseus Piano Trio
Ty Cerdd TCR041   75:13 mins

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This is a vivid programme from an expressive British ensemble. The Odysseus Piano Trio have matched works by Robert and Clara Schumann with two contemporary pieces by notable UK composers, Helen Grime and Huw Watkins.

Grime’s Three Whistler Miniatures were inspired by the artist’s chalk and pastel works in a Boston museum. Her programme note explains: ‘I was taken by the subtly graduated palette and intimate atmosphere suggested by each.’ You might not guess this, however, from the Odysseus’s playing, which throughout the recording sounds distinctly forthright. While their extrovert, rather full-on approach brings out the warmth and passion in Robert Schumann’s Six Studies in Canonic Form – originally for ‘pedal-piano’, these come into their own in Kirchner’s trio arrangement – the Grime pieces possibly sound here more dramatic in nature than the composer intended. There’s a tendency from the violinist to use overpressed fortes and low-vibrato whispers without quite enough mid-range sonority (a current trend, rather frustratingly so, among today’s string players).

The Clara Schumann Trio, new recordings of which are currently achieving floodlike numbers, receives a likewise impassioned performance, though sometimes it could use moments of more rigorously shaded contrast. Watkins’s Trio seems to suit the ensemble best: they give his terrific imagination and unashamed virtuosity its head, especially in the headlong finale, which slightly evokes a kind of late Vaughan Williams after too much caffeine.

Recorded sound quality is warm but somewhat over-resonant. Programme notes are provided with Welsh translation.

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Jessica Duchen