In as many days I've written reviews of CDs of music by two composers who are shamefully neglected: Giovanni Sgambati Symphony No 1: Overture Cola Di Rienzo and Eduard Franck (1817-1893). Franck, no relation to César Franck but the father of another good composer, Richard Franck, was a German who was a protégé of Mendelssohn. His music is quite similar to Mendelssohn's but tending toward the more Romantic, expressive style of Schumann, who was also a close friend. He primarily wrote non-programmatic music employing classical forms, writing lots of chamber music; his music has been enjoying a boomlet in the past few years thanks to recordings of some of it e.g., Eduard Franck: String Quartets, Opp. 54 & 55. The Piano Trio in E Flat, Op. 22, has been recorded before, I understand, but I'd not heard it until this CD. It is in the typical four movements and each of them is a model of its kind with elegance, impeccable craft and tuneful melodies. Of the four movements the Scherzo is the most Mendelssohnian in its clever molding and combining of themes.
Both the Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 42, and the Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 23 are cast in the same formal mold as the piano trio. Unfailingly melodious, they clearly show the pianist as the equal partner to his string soloists. In fact, the piano parts of the sonatas are often quite virtuosic. Each sonata deserves a place in the repertoire after many years of neglect.
The instrumentalists in this recording are long-admired musicians. Pianist James Tocco has been primarily known for his recordings of American music but has not stinted in his performance of the classics. He is a member of the faculty at the Cincinnati Conservatory. Violinist Shmuel Ashkenazi is the long-time first violinist in the Vermeer Quartet, a faculty member at the Curtis Institute. Cellist Yehuda Hanani, a student of Leonard Rose, is also a professor at the Cincinnati Conservatory. The playing on this disc has technical adroitness coupled with emotional immediacy.