The Leonore Piano Trio perform Piano Trios and Journeying Songs by David Matthews

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COMPOSERS: David Matthews
LABELS: Toccata Classics
ALBUM TITLE: D Matthews
WORKS: Piano Trios Nos 1-3; Journeying Songs
PERFORMER: Leonore Piano Trio; Gemma Rosefield (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0369

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David Matthews’s three piano trios certainly communicate with considerable charm. The First was written in 1983 at the behest of the broadcaster Hans Keller. Matthews recalls taking ‘especial care not to overload the piano part’, knowing Keller’s disapproval of Ravel’s work (and indeed of French music in general); yet its four short movements – three lasting less than five minutes each – often sound close to the soundworld of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Equally bold is Matthews’s decision in the finale to avoid ‘any ambitious attempt at summing up’, but rather opting ‘for utter simplicity’, inspired by the ‘magical landscape and seascape’ of the West Highlands of Scotland.

The Second Trio (1993) evokes the spirits of Ravel and Bartók, though Matthews’s own voice emerges in the second movement’s bitter-sweet barcarolle, written in memory of his partner, the novelist Maggie Hemingway. After a jazz-inflected scherzo, the finale’s light-as-thistledown start introduces a sweet, rambling passage like off-kilter Fauré, then twinkles into silence. The Third Trio (2005), after the nouveau cuisine-like succinctness of its predecessors, appears sinewy and substantial. Matthews describes the Leonore Piano Trio’s lively and evocative performances as ‘definitive’. Their cellist, Gemma Rosefield, gives equally searching accounts of Journeying Songs.

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Daniel Jaffé