WORKS: Piano Trio; Flute Quartet
PERFORMER: Judith Pearce (flute), Monticello Trio, Paul Coletti (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 920 DDD
Like a climber assailing some craggy rock-face, Nicholas Maw’s attempts at impressively large sonata structures give rise to a tension based on our simple fear that they just might not succeed. Yet they do, time and again, and not least when he’s tackling traditional genres. Though his method is intuitive, its secret lies in his choice of material that retains an inherent musicality in its personal expression. As in the Flute Quartet’s finale, it may even wear neo-classical costume while avoiding cliché and following its own script.
Internal changes of tempo in all three movements characterise the musical argument of this piece, but with an effect that is integrated rather than stop-go. The equally distinctive range of contrasts in the recent Piano Trio adds up to a major addition to the modern repertory, and one for which this performance will surely act as model. The second of its two movements travels from the world of Messiaen to that of Fauré by way of Wenlock Edge, a typical late 20th-century journey, but one that Maw accomplishes without alienation, quotation, or protective irony. Nicholas Williams