Beethoven & Ravel: Piano Trios (CD review)

Beethoven: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3; Ravel: Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello. Claremont Trio. Tria TR3862.

The Claremont Trio, comprised of Donna Kwong, piano, and twin sisters Emily and Julia Bruskin on violin and cello respectively, formed in 1999 and have received wide acclaim ever since. Listening to this album of Beethoven and Ravel piano trios, one can understand why.

The interpretations are gentle and sensitive, but by no means do they lack impact, as the final movements of both the Beethoven and Ravel attest. The three women have performed together for over a decade since their Juilliard debut, and their playing has merged into one voice, sonorous, delicate, nuanced, and powerful.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote his Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3 in 1795, and it is the more traditional of the two pieces on the disc, a large-scale piano trio in four movements. One of Beethoven's teachers, Joseph Haydn, advised him not to publish it because he felt it was too complex for the public to understand. That's how far ahead of its time the work was. Beethoven ignored him, and today, as I say, it sounds fairly conventional, though still brilliant.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) wrote his Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello in 1914 before setting off for World War II. Although it is also in four movements, it is more lithe, more sensuous, and more exotic than the Beethoven piece, with beautifully lyrical rhythms and sinuous melodic lines. The Claremont Trio play both works with grace, refinement, feeling, and character, to be sure, but also with an assured virtuosity. They are a pleasure.

Recorded in May, 2010, by producer and engineer Adam Abeshouse, the sound is close enough to provide a reasonable degree of detail and definition and distanced enough to offer a compensating warmth and bloom. The result is a natural, realistic response and perspective, making for highly comfortable and satisfying listening.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa