Chamber Works by Women Composers

Author: 
Joan Chissell

Chamber Works by Women Composers

  • Piano Trio
  • Piano Trio
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2
  • (3) Pieces, Nocturne (1911)
  • (3) Pieces, Cortège (1914)
  • Piano Trio
  • String Quartet
  • Piano Trio No. 1

Four of the seven works included here are not otherwise available on CD. For such chivalrous acts of rescue gratitude is primarily due to Joseph Roche, leader of the Macalester Trio—formed in 1968 and named after the college in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where all three members are artists-in-residence. It is revealing to hear Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel's D minor Piano Trio (previously recorded by the Dartington Trio) alongside the by now familiar G minor Piano Trio by her renowned pianist acquaintance, Clara Schumann, it reveals Clara as the neater craftswoman but Fanny as the more urgent communicator—especially its surging first movement. Too bad that as wife of the Prussian court painter, Wilhelm Hensel, the professional concert platform for her was decidedly out of bounds.
Not so for this disc's sole American representative, Amy Marcy Cheney, who after marriage at 18, in 1885, pursued an active career as a pianist and composer under the name of Mrs H. H. A. Beach for her remaining 59 years. Dating from 1938, her Op. 150 Piano Trio testifies to a generously romantic heart, albeit occasionally too openly worn on the sleeve in so far as melody is concerned. In the last of the four piano trios we meet the young Cecile Chaminade, already anticipating later conquests with the ear-catching charm of this work's fancifully scored Scherzo. The solitary string quartet (like the last two works new to the catalogue) comes from that legendary Venezuelan firebrand, Teresa Carreno, here in surprisingly assuaging, quasi classical trim—even to the inclusion of a fugal episode (as if in emulation of Clara Schumann) in the finale.
Each work included merits its place, but none, surely, more than those for just violin and piano. ''Bon-bons'' (as the author of the anonymous booklet-note puts it). Lili Boulanger's ''Nocturne'' and ''Cortege'' may be in comparison with the haunting orchestral D'un soir triste brought into the catalogue last February, but how sensitive and subtle all the same. As for Tailleferre's finely crafted, emotionally sophisticated First Sonata in C sharp minor (given its premiere by Thibaud and Cortot, no less), its previous omission from the catalogue is inexplicable. I wholly concur with the note-writer who suggests that, had Milhaud's name appeared on it, it would be ''one of the popular works of the century''. Apart from an all too bland account of Clara Schumann's Trio, the playing throughout is as acceptable as the recording.'

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