There are some combinations on ‘American Moments’ that feel more like conflicts than contrasts. Initial appearances suggest it is a recital of piano trios by American composers – Arthur Foote is often cited as the first successful American composer wholly trained in the States; Bernstein is the epitome of the all-American composer. But Korngold was born in what is now the Czech Republic, and did not arrive in California until he was in his early 40s. It is true that the Hollywood sparkle of his composition was in place long before he set foot in America – the occasionally schmaltzy Piano Trio, Op 1, was written when he was barely a teenager – but he was, and remained, firm in his own assertion of his identity as Viennese.
This confusion about whether the programming has been predicated on a fundamental misapprehension or deliberate juxtaposition (and if so, to what end) permeates the whole of the Neave Trio’s survey, which is unsettling. Not least because all three works are treated in largely the same way, with little apparent difference between their generalist approach to the immaturities of the Korngold, the far more complex harmonic material of the Foote and the rhythmic drive and cultural references of the Bernstein. This results in an overhandling of the third movement of the Korngold that rather exposes its shortcomings, a frustrating lack of appeasement in the glorious ascent of the Tranquillo of the Foote, and a lack of technical precision in the Bernstein that leaves it feeling flat in places and undersold in others.
And so, although their boundless enthusiasm is infectious for this repertoire in a way that it was not for their Fauré and Shostakovich (privately issued in 2013), it nevertheless remains frustrating in its lack of discernment.