on 20 December 2012
Martinu was a prolific composer, especially in regard to his chamber music oeuvre, composing trios, quartets, quintets for various instrumental combinations, as well as duo sonatas. His works reflect the influence of Debussy, Roussel and the neoclassicism of Stravinsky. He developed a distinctive style, and his music is very listenable and accessible to music lovers, which would account for his enduring popularity.
The present CD gathers together his complete works for piano trio. These consist of two `formal' three-movement trios, and two five-movement works entitled `Cinq pieces breves' and `Bergerettes'.
Cinq pieces breves is the earliest work and was composed in 1930 when Martinu resided in Paris (1923-1940). These are, as the title suggests, short pieces. They are neoclassical in style and clearly show the influence of Stravinsky. Some would consider some of the movements rather brash. They are definitely extrovert, with the second movement being more elegiac, and thus providing the only strong contrast in the work. Bergerettes, composed 1939, I found less brash, but having a rhythmic vitality throughout. It is certainly not as percussive and angular in style as the earlier composition but shares a similarity with it, in that all the movements are miniatures. The writing for both works is very virtuosic, and demonstrates Martinu's dexterity and fluency in writing for these three instruments in combination
The two works named as trios are on a much larger scale and structurally more classical in style than the aforementioned works. The 2nd Piano Trio in D minor was written in 1951. The first movement is a spirited allegro moderato. There follows a quieter, more subdued andante with a noble theme. It's almost like a dialogue between the three instruments. The third movement has scherzo- like qualities with a rapid, repetitious ostinato, this creates a tension which propulses the music forward to it's conclusion.
Composed around the same time as the 2nd Trio, the 4th Trio has the name `The Great' attached to it. It begins with a flavor of atonality and is discordant and dramatic in nature. This pervades the entire work. The second movement begins darkly, and is expressive with a hint of desolation. An allegro third movement brings the work to a lively end.
I very much enjoyed this CD. The trios are in well-recorded sound and the booklet notes are informative. The Arbor Piano Trio are excellent and give the music the rhythmic urgency that this music requires. It certainly has given me the impetus to explore other chamber works by Martinu on the Naxos label. Definitely 5 stars.