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L Berkeley • Brahms • Jonathan Leshnoff: Horn Trios

David Cooper (horn), Alexander Kerr (violin), Orion Weiss (piano) (Naxos)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

L Berkeley • Brahms • Jonathan Leshnoff
Horn Trios
David Cooper (horn), Alexander Kerr (violin), Orion Weiss (piano)
Naxos 8.579137   64:14 mins


If the horn, violin and piano were zoo animals rather than musical instruments, you wouldn’t expect to find them sharing the same enclosure. The sounds they generate, the means of production, are all so very different. Naxos’s booklet notes pinpoint Brahms’s Horn Trio of 1865 as the work that finally established the horn trio as a distinct genre. This mellow piece certainly exudes a power and stature beyond the reach of its two more modern companions on this album. The trios of Brahms and Lennox Berkeley were both recorded in the 1950s by the supreme British horn player Dennis Brain with a sunshine glow still hard to match. Yet David Cooper’s clean efficiency brings its own rewards in Brahms’s galloping finale; nor does he stint on the deeper emotions required for the moving slow movement, haunted by the composer’s grief over his mother’s death.

As for ensemble spirit, all three American performers pitch in with the agile élan required for Lennox Berkeley’s Trio of 1952, a variously declamatory, wistful and light-hearted confection with an obvious French lineage. In its crisp exchanges of phrases, Orion Weiss’s nimble fingering at the piano is particularly beneficial, though the slightly dry and clinical recording is less suited to showcasing the succulence of Alexander Kerr’s violin.

We end with the contemporary American composer Jonathan Leshnoff’s highly derivative 2016 Trio, and the smallest work in size and impact, though it makes a genial enough conclusion for this trip to one of the odder corners in the musical zoo.


Geoff Brown