Neave Trio: French Moments
The Neave Trio have turned to the French repertory for their second album for Chandos, wisely attempting, perhaps, to avoid the controversy that surrounded the programming of their earlier ‘American Moments’ (1/17), which placed an early (Viennese) work by Korngold alongside bona fide American trios by Foote and Bernstein. The disc also marks their return to Fauré’s Trio, a performance of which appeared on their own label in 2014. I’m not familiar with that earlier version, now seemingly unavailable either on disc or download, but after reading Harriet Smith’s review of the original release (5/14), it would appear that some of its interpretative flaws have been ironed out. There’s little sense here of the players’ exuberance intruding on the performance’s integrity, and slight shifts in tempo no longer obscure the inner pulse of the Andantino. The new version is scrupulously played and emotionally reined in. If anything, it’s a bit too cool, lacking the weight and quiet intensity of, say, the Capuçons and Nicholas Angelich.
Its companion pieces, meanwhile, came early in their respective composers’ careers. Debussy’s Trio, written in 1882 when he was a member of Nadezhda von Meck’s entourage, bears scant resemblance to his later music, and sounds sometimes like Saint-Saëns, sometimes like Delibes. Roussel’s Op 2, an ambitious exercise in cyclic form, dates from his years at the Schola Cantorum and carries greater intimations of what was to follow, not least in its opening, which seems to slide from silence into sound as the principal theme coalesces over oscillating figurations and slowly shifting harmonies. The Neaves’ Debussy is all sparking elegance and wit, though they can’t disguise the fact that the first movement is too long for its own good. In the outer movements of the Roussel, the tricky balance between form and emotion sometimes slips in favour of the latter, though the slow movement, with its closely woven string counterpoint over insistent piano chords, has a dark intensity and is most beautifully done.