Rachmaninov • Lawrence Rose • Smetana
Rachmaninov: Trio élégiaque No. 2; L Rose: Piano Trio; Smetana: Piano Trio
Aquinas Piano Trio
Stone Records 5060192781175 76:05 mins
‘A Rose between two thorns’ doesn’t quite work here – most of the thorns as well as an unearthly fragrance at times belong to the big central work, Lawrence Rose’s 2019 Piano Trio. A master of unconventional form, taking only the broadest of cues here from the seven-movement continuity of Beethoven’s Op. 131 String Quartet, Rose sacrificed composing for the law but has since made up for lost time. Like Smetana and Rachmaninov – and indeed like most composers when they took up the piano trio form – he has much to lament, in this case USA shootings and war crimes in Syria which lie behind the cumulative elegy of the final movement. Despite that, and constant reference to a Passacaglia theme, the essence is mercurial, sometimes even playful, and the light which shines through allows the work to end in peace. It’s certainly a richly wrought and fascinating addition to the piano trio repertoire.
While Rachmaninov’s youthful homage to Tchaikovsky – still alive at the time – follows the lessons of the master with its own impressive themes, Smetana’s early work teems with originality, both in tragic pathos (he was mourning the loss of his four-year old daughter) and in structural ingenuity. Violinist Ruth Rogers and cellist Katherine Jenkinson are captured with respective brilliance and resonance by the recording, so it’s a shame that aurally Martin Cousin has to take a back seat; Smetana’s and Rachmaninov’s piano writing is too big and strong for that.