Raff: Piano Trios (complete)

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LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Piano Trios (complete)
PERFORMER: Jonathan Allen (violin), Daniel Pezzotti (cello), Jan Schultsz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 88833 2
As the CD booklet note concedes, ‘encyclopaedic’ hearing is not the best way to enjoy Joachim Raff’s four surviving piano trios. Listen to them one after another and the similarities – from turns of phrase to broad structural layout – become all too obvious. You might also begin to sense something in the music of the manic fluency with which Raff wrote: the notes cascade across the page (especially in the piano part), and the music rarely pauses for breath, even in the slow movements. At his best Raff sounds like a rather more fleet-footed version of his younger contemporary Brahms; hear too much of it though and it becomes hard to concentrate – a simple case of ‘too many notes’? Still, take any of these trios separately and Raff’s assured charm may well win you over, and every now and again you will encounter ideas that lodge in the memory. The skill and melodic inventiveness are impressive – more so than in the slightly better-known (and once famous) Lenore Symphony. Jonathan Allen, Daniel Pezzotti and Jan Schultsz play elegantly and with remarkable sustained conviction, and the recording serves the string tone well, though the piano sounds recessed. Stephen Johnson