Chandos continues to champion the works of York Bowen, this time turning to the chamber works of this great composer who, after years of neglect, is finding ever growing audiences. The works are performed by the Gould Piano Trio, one of the finest ensembles of their kind, which is joined by the clarinettist Robert Plane, violinist Mia Cooper, and violist David Adams. The Piano Trio in E minor is arguably Bowen’s masterpiece of chamber music and one of the finest such works by a British composer. It features a natural fluency and melodic expression that are hallmarks of Bowen’s output. The Phantasy Quintet is a fascinating work for the virtually unique combination of bass clarinet and string quartet. Flowing seamlessly, the music masterfully integrates the bass clarinet into the texture. Also included is the first movement from the unfinished early Piano Trio in D minor, edited for this premiere recording by the Gould Piano Trio. Its structure is simpler and less organic than the later works but it is an intriguing piece and clearly the work of a gifted creative figure. The Rhapsody Trio in A minor and Clarinet Sonata in F minor complete the disc.
Decca have sportingly given the competition 18 months' free run with Schnittke's Concerto Grosso No. 4/Symphony No. 5. But fine though the Gothenburg/Jarvi performance is, the new recording surpasses it. In Schnittke's world expressive urge and structural constraint will never unite in total wedded bliss, but in the Fifth Symphony (for short) the thing they produce is certainly bigger than the both of them. I won't rehearse the description I gave in my review of the BIS issue, save to say that it progresses from Stravinskian concerto grosso, through Mantovani-with-a-nervous-breakdown pastiche (based on the teenage Mahler's unfinished Piano Quartet) to full-blown tragic symphony echoing archetypes from Mahler's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies.
When András Schiff completed the recording of all of Schubert's piano sonatas in the 1990s, Decca released a box set containing all of the individual discs from the series. For this 2011 reissue, Decca goes one step further and includes Schiff's recordings of the Impromptus, the Moments musicaux, and several other shorter works. Schubert's music, along with that of Bach and Mozart, is one of the cornerstones upon which Schiff built his reputation as a thoughtful and intelligent performer. Anyone looking for a complete set of the Schubert sonatas could do much worse than to choose this one by one of the foremost Schubert interpreters of his generation.
It’s fair enough that those with a vested interest in Sibelius’s piano music want to give it more visibility than it has had before. This collection of all the published piano works with opus numbers comes a with a comprehensive booklet note (by Antti Häyrynen); sensibly, this doesn’t make excessive claims regarding what is, with exceptions, a mediocre area of Sibelius’s output.
The Odeon Trio go for gold. Unlike either the Beaux Arts (Philips) or the Fontenay (Teldec), they use three CDs to include everything by Brahms that could possibly be called a piano trio, not forgetting the Op. 114 and Op. 40 wind trios, whose wind parts can well be rendered by strings. They decide, too, that the original 1853 version of the B major Trio is for them, rather than the revised version of 1889 which is more generally favoured.
Maria Szymanowska Piano Duo is formed by two pianist associated with the Academy of Music in Łódź. The guiding thought of the joint activity adopted by the artists is to promote Polish music and works of less known composers, whose pieces are gradually being forgotten. Polish music, to which the present CD including four hands piano music is dedicated, occupies a special place in their output.