Friday, 10 February 2017

Impressive performances from the Leonore Piano Trio and Gemma Rosefield on a new release from Toccata Classics of David Matthew’s Piano Trios and Journeying Songs for solo cello

Toccata Classics have already released a series of recordings of David Matthews’ String Quartets not to mention volume one of Music for Solo Violin and Music for Piano that includes his Piano Concerto and Piano Sonata.

Now Toccata Classics have released a recording of David Matthews’ Complete Piano Trios (to date) performed by the Leonore Piano Trio  with Gemma Rosefield performing Journeying Songs, Op. 95 for solo cello.

TOCC 0369
David Matthews’ Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 34 (1983) was commissioned by Trio Zingara with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain and first performed by them at the Purcell Room, London, UK in June 1984. In four movements, the piano introduces the slow opening Lento to which the strings bring a descending motif before soon picking up a pace to rush quickly forward in the Allegro moderato. These players bring a fine spring to the music that constantly seeks to find the opening calm yet always leaps up to move quickly forward through some terrific passages before seeming to find a peace in the curious coda.

The violin opens the Allegretto: Drily humorous with a repeated chord, responded to by the cello before the piano joins, all three players finding a lovely dialogue. Soon a broader passage emerges, yet the piano’s staccato chords return the air of playfulness, as do the string players in certain strange phrases, hinting at a more sinister undercurrent. Later on there are richer string chords, soon overtaken by a rhythmic pizzicato violin motif over a rich cello line before the piano has a final say in the coda. The Adagio has a fine melody for the strings that is overlaid by gentle piano chords as this lovely movement slowly finds its way forward, each instrument adding its own depth of feeling, combining to bring lovely textures. The music tries to rise, led by the piano but continues its exquisite way forward. These players find the most lovely sensitivity in the hushed phrases before a more passionate edge momentarily appears. The gentler nature returns with the piano leading over hushed harmonics that draw the movement to a gentle close.

The Molto moderato opens gently with a three note piano motif to which the cello, then violin gently add a melody, gorgeously played by this Trio. The violin takes the three note motif around which the piano and cello wind the varied melody. It is quite wonderful how Matthews draws so many fine ideas from this simple figure, rising in passion a little before the gentle coda.                                      

The Chagall Trio commissioned Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 61 (1993) with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain, giving its premiere at the Assembly House, Norwich, Norfolk, UK as part of the Norwich Festival in October 1993.

Again in four movements, the Allegro opens with a blustery theme, full of energy, rising through some incisive bars as the idea is developed with the Leonore Piano Trio bringing terrific ensemble and precision before a sudden unresolved conclusion.  

The Adagio is a memorial piece for the composer’s partner, the writer Maggie Hemingway. The piano slowly opens with the violin bringing a long drawn line, a fine melody. The cello joins adding a lovely depth before the music rises a little in dynamics with these players bringing some quite wonderful textures and harmonies. The music moves through a haunting, slow, hushed section before finding more of a forward flow and gaining in richness and dynamics, bringing a real passion. Eventually the music drops to a hushed, gentle moment that leads back to the former gentle flow before a hushed coda.

The Scherzo: Molto allegro brings an urgency as the players play a rather syncopated, frantic theme that hurtles forward with insistent phrases. Soon there are broad piano chords over the desperate strings before a middle section where the theme is varied. Finally the music picks up to hurtle forward to the coda.

There are light, gossamer harmonies from the strings in the opening of the Allegro moderato - Andante con moto – Presto to which the piano brings little repeated notes and out of which emerges a rather anguished melody. The music finds a kind of entranced calm with some lovely details before a faster section for piano with pizzicato violin. Eventually the music rushes forward with beautifully light textures to the coda. This is a particularly fine trio.

Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 97 (2005) was commissioned by the Leasowes Bank Festival, Shropshire, UK and first performed by the Chamber Music Company in July 2005.

In two movements, the piano brings a lively motif in the opening of the Con vivacità that is quickly varied and taken up by the cello before all three share the theme. This trio finds some lovely textures and sonorities with the theme in its various guises, fairly leaping up each time out of the more restrained moments. There are fine broad intervals whilst always keeping a bubbling energy. Later the violin winds the lovely melody, rising to the heights before all three bring about a slow, finely controlled, hushed coda.

The piano brings a languid theme with some lovely dissonances appearing in the Andante moderato to which the cello adds a deep, rich tone, soon joined by the violin in what is a quite wonderful melody, finding lovely textures. The music suddenly drops to a hushed passage with the strings finding much anguished beauty before rising, only to fall to another hushed passage. These players find much feeling as they develop through terrific textures and harmonies. The music reaches a brief dynamic peak before falling back into a Presto section where the passion is let loose as the music rushes headlong through some terrific bars. But it is the languid pace that prevails right to the end.

The Leonore Piano Trio’s cellist, Gemma Rosefield brings a very fine performance of Journeying Songs, Op. 95 for solo cello (2004/08) to conclude this disc.

Song for Judith: Robusto was commissioned by the Hampstead and Highgate Festival with funds from the John S Cohen Foundation and is dedicated to Judith Weir on her 50th birthday. Strummed chords open around which Gemma Rosefield brings some lovely rich textures before developing through passages that have subtle Eastern inflections, whilst the strummed chords often create a rather Iberian flavour. This music allows so much opportunity for expression from the soloist in passages of varying textures with Gemma Rosefield extracting so much from her instrument.  Later the music picks up the pace in a fast moving section with rapid phrases, brilliantly played here, gaining in passion. Towards the end there are rapid harmonics before slowing and quietening for a thoughtful coda, a Pastoral where strummed chords conclude.

Song for Elaine: Poco lento e quieto was written for the Chief Editor at Faber Music, Elaine Gould. Gemma Rosefield draws a long slow line as this reflective melody expands through more passionate moments to a quiet coda on plucked chords.

Song for Gemma: Andante trasognato - Allegro appassionato was composed for the soloist here, Gemma Rosefield. It has a plaintive melody that is soon interrupted by more energetic, dynamics phrases. This piece ranges across the cello, extracting many fine textures, sonorities and varying tonal qualities through passages of great passion and momentum.

Gemma Rosefield is an excellent advocate of this brilliant work.

There are some wonderful works here, impressively played, containing some of Matthews’ finest music. They receive excellent recordings and there are informative notes from the composer.

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