KOTCHEFF gone into night are all the eyes
Any chamber music recording that’s so forward-looking that the reward at the end is Ives’s Piano Trio deserves automatic respect. But that doesn’t mean one will enjoy this challenging disc by Trio Appassionata. The group – consisting of violinist Lydia Chernicoff, cellist Andrea Casarrubios and pianist Ronaldo Rolim – serves up an all-American programme that begins with the relatively friendly world premiere recording of Thomas Kotcheff’s gone into night are all the eyes, with first-movement keyboard-writing that recalls the Hungarian cimbalom, an explosive cat-and-mouse game in the second movement and then a final movement that enters more impulsive Messiaen territory. But aside from some thematic connections, these three movements don’t seem to belong in the same piece. Eric Moe’s 1990 We Happy Few, a one-movement work, comes off like an abstract argument among the three instruments, though one struggles to be engaged by what the argument might be about. In both works, the inner need to compose seems to take precedence over the need to communicate.
Though the works by Kirchner and Ives are in fact more dense and hard to parse, this is where the disc finds more solid ground. Even if you don’t immediately apprehend the music, the compositional zeal has palpable charisma that makes repeated encounters with Kirchner, for example, a sort of wonderland of atonal simultaneity. The Ives Trio is a major American chamber work and a particularly characteristic example of the composer’s art, with clouds of harmonic ambiguity recalling the American Impressionist painters with unpredictable mixtures of Americana songs such as ‘My old Kentucky home’. But while the Beaux Arts Trio recording (found in the box-set ‘The Philips Recordings 1967-1974’) attempts to clarify what the music says, Trio Appassionata seem equally if not more interested in how the composer is saying it in a performance with a more vernacular accent. Therein perhaps lies the trio’s limitation: it’s so swept up in the physicality of performance that inner meaning becomes secondary.