MARTINŮ Sonatina MOSZKOWSKI Suite
Trio Koch – Luxembourg-based violinist Philippe Koch, his pianist son Jean-Philippe and violinist daughter Laurence – take pride in championing little-played repertoire. That, at least, provides a rationale for this otherwise miscellaneous programme. None of the pieces showcase its composer at their finest but they do provide a platform for the musicians’ technical wizardry.
Take Moszkowski’s Suite in G minor, a piece that, unsurprisingly, provoked the admiration of Franz Liszt. It is a veritable obstacle course; indeed, Moszkowski wrote it in preparation for his 15 Etudes de virtuosité. But the Koch literally make it sound like child’s play. What stands out is their lightness of foot – in the rippling exchanges of the second movement and the quickfire volleys of the finale – as well as their boisterous energy and continuity of line. It is all very impressive, if you don’t mind what is missing, namely the work’s underlying sense of yearning.
They make a more subtle case for their next offering, even if the work itself smacks of youthful naivety. Milhaud, allegedly, was not fond of his 1914 Sonata for two violins and would try to hide it if he saw it on someone’s piano. Still, there is plenty to enjoy in this Impressionistic music, not least the delicacy of the scoring. The players, with their fastidious ear for balance, do their best to preserve its magic, revelling, in particular, in the gauzy second movement.
But they seem to be at their most comfortable in the final piece: Martinů’s Sonatina for two violins and piano. Certainly they seem to enjoy its contradictions, between Baroque form and 20th-century experiment, sentimentality and restraint: the third movement is the model of tightly contained nostalgia. Most of all, though, they relish its rhythmic ingenuity. The result, spotlighting this trio’s characteristic incisiveness, is both propulsive and fresh.