Gál • Shostakovich
Gál: Piano Trio in E, Op. 18; Variations on a Popular Viennese Tune, Op. 9; Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
Briggs Piano Trio
Avie AV 2390 63:05 mins
Hans Gál is now well represented in recordings, and finding his place in the pantheon of Viennese composers whose lives were disrupted by the events of the 1930s. He eventually settled in Edinburgh, but both these works come from his years in Vienna. If you think of Korngold, you’ll be in the right area: lush harmonies, soaring melodies and an expert compositional technique. The Briggs Trio responds to the style with enormous affection, following the mood changes from passionate to witty with eagle ears, and it sounds as if they have been living with the music for a long time. For capturing their wide tonal and dynamic palette in the recording, the producer and engineer, Simon Fox-Gál – the composer’s grandson – deserves a special mention.
What I’m less sure of is the inevitability and memorability of the melodic material itself, which is where Shostakovich wins hands down, from the ghostly, fragile cello harmonics at the opening, through the brutal Scherzo and funereal, elegiac Largo to the typically ironic Finale. There’s much competition, from some distinguished groups, but the Briggs Trio holds its own most of the time: there could be a little more exaggeration in the finale, but this is a good-sounding release.