ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Zanfonia Trio
WORKS: The Soldier’s Tale Suite; Trio; Largo; Contrasts; Hommage à R. Sch.
PERFORMER: Zanfonia Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CD 99601 (distr. Zanfonia CDs, 4 Eastbrook Rd, London SE3 8BP)
Presentation is the least satisfying aspect of the debut CD (self-produced and published) by the Zanfonia Trio. There are good programme notes by the pianist, Fiona Harris, in the artfully designed booklet, from whose photos and names one deduces that the players are three British youngsters. That’s all. Because the record is a striking success, its programme intelligently varied and most vividly delivered, I want more information.
Five pieces by 20th-century composers for violin (viola in György Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Sch.), clarinet and piano are tackled with energy, flair and stylistic exactitude. The best known – Stravinsky’s five-number, three-instrument suite from The Soldier’s Tale, and Bartók’s Contrasts – receive performances of markedly idiomatic cut and character. Stravinsky’s deadpan mixture of modernist chic and native Russian wildness is caught without being overstressed, and the freshness and nuanced lyricism of the Bartók make the 1940 recording by the work’s creators (Szigeti, Benny Goodman and Bartók himself) seem laconic in comparison.
The Khachaturian and Ives trio compositions provide pleasant makeweights; much more fascinating are the six Kurtág Schumann homages (1990), five tiny epigrams, pithy, secretive, sharp-pointed, followed by a sepulchrally melancholy Adagio. In sum, it’s a fine disc, which leaves me hungry to hear – and know – more about the Zanfonia Trio. Max Loppert