Frank Martin (1890-1974)
Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises (1925)
Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978)
Piano Trio in B flat minor, op. 4 (1916)
Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
Piano Trio in B minor (1933)
rec. 2021, SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern, Germany
AVI-MUSIC 8553514 
Even without consulting any references, I think it is fairly safe to say that this grouping is unique. While the Turina and the Martin have some presence in the catalogue – my discography lists more than a dozen recordings for each – the inclusion of the Vladigerov will be most welcome to those who appreciate tonal twentieth century piano trios. It is one of only three recordings, and the first for more than a decade.
An unexpected coupling this might be, but on closer inspection, it is in fact a quite intelligent piece of programming: the works are written reasonably closer together, in a tonal idiom not necessarily in step with the fashion of the time, and most importantly, with inflections of folk music from Ireland, Bulgaria and Spain, respectively.
Frank Martin’s trio is one his most recorded works, and stems from a commission from a wealthy American with a passion for Irish folk music who Martin met in Paris. As the work developed, it became clear that Martin’s approach was not going to meet the commissioner’s requirements, so the two agreed that Martin would not receive any payment, and would retain ownership of the work. The identity of the American is not known, but it might be surmised that he was expecting a pastiche of well-known tunes. As I understand it, Martin doesn’t quote any folktunes directly, rather using the rhythms as inspirations. The third movement Gigue is the most obviously Irish, but the real standout for me is the Adagio, intense, elegiac and strikingly beautiful.
Pancho Vladigerov is the best-known Bulgarian composer, and the Capriccio label has recently released a number of recordings of his music from the 1970s and 1980s, none of which included this trio, written when studying in Berlin (he was admitted to the Berlin Conservatory aged thirteen). In the same way as the Martin, Vladigerov uses the ideas and feelings of Bulgarian folk music, but no actual tunes (not that I would be in a position to recognise them if he did). In fact, what the opening did remind me of was Ravel’s trio, written two years earlier, and undoubtedly known in Berlin. Vladigerov even uses the same tempo marking as Ravel. At almost thirteen minutes, the first movement does rather run out of ideas, but it does still make quite an impact. The middle movement is almost as lengthy, late-Romantic hothouse, but not especially memorable. The finale is the most obviously folk-inspired, earthy, raucous and good fun.
The Turina trio also shows some French influence, and is, for me, the best of the three works. Like the other two, it employs folk tunes as an influence only, with writing for the strings that brings Spanish guitar to mind. It is the only work of the three I had heard before, and it deserves to be better known. If you haven’t heard it, then this recording would be a very good way of getting to know it, as Trio Imàge give as good a performance as I have heard, edging out the Lincoln Trio (review) and Trio Arbós (review).
Two members of Trio Imàge – pianist Pavlin Nechev and violinist Gergana Gergova – are Bulgarian, hence the advocacy of their countryman. The trio (the cellist is Austrian Thomas Kaufmann) has been together since 2008, and this is their fourth release for Avi-Music: the other releases have included the music of Mauricio Kagel, Hans Sommer, Marek Dyakov, Siegfried Fall and Antonín Dvořák, so the obscure is definitely their métier. Based on the comparison I was able to make with other recordings of the Turina, I have to conclude that this is a very fine group indeed. Sound quality is good and the booklet notes are satisfactory, though more of the page devoted to Vladigerov is given over to discussion of other works of his.
If the idea of these three works is appealing, then I think you will find this to be a very welcome acquisition.
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