FAURÉ; PIERNÉ Piano Trios
Gabriel Pierné’s star seems to be in the ascendant at the moment. A few months back there was a fine reading of his Piano Quintet from the Goldner Quartet and Piers Lane (Hyperion, 5/14). Now the Wanderer offer a comparably compelling recording of his Trio. Heard ‘blind’, you’d be hard-pressed to guess this was written in 1921, which perhaps helps to explain why it’s not better known. It’s a work that grows out of the tradition in which Pierné was ensconced, and its broad expanse and darkly turbulent Romanticism palpably grow from the tradition of Franck, who had been one of his teachers.
The very opening theme, in the piano’s lower register, sets up a disquiet that pervades much of the opening movement. There’s some superbly effective writing for violin and cello at the movement’s midpoint, and the Wanderer balance rhetoric and stillness to great effect. Pierné’s lighter side is revealed in the Allegretto scherzando, with some nicely punchy pizzicato from the string players. The finale is a taxing and imaginative set of variations on an initially austere theme. As the movement progresses, Pierné is unsparing of his players but the Wanderer rise to every challenge, and the piece ends in a gloriously affirmative manner.
Fauré’s Trio is also in a sense out of its time and it was completed only in 1923. The Wanderer’s reading is full of warmth and intimacy, which is particularly appealing in the opening movement. Their Andantino is deeply conversational from the outset, not dissimilar in approach to Eric Le Sage and his colleagues on their recent Alpha disc. But I’ve come to find a more held-back, cooler beginning even more effective here, something superbly achieved by the Capuçons and Angelich and by Trio George Sand, both of whom convey more searingly the movement’s sense of quiet desperation.
The finale is spiritedly played but it’s less ‘French’-sounding than some. This is partly down to the less fingery style of the Wanderer’s pianist (just try Le Sage by comparison); and others also find a greater degree of wistfulness in this strangely angular movement, notably the Florestan and Trio George Sand. So a clear recommendation for the Pierné but a slightly more guarded one for Fauré.