Martinu Piano Trios Arbor Trio Naxos 8.572251

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Cinq Pieces breves
Piano Trio No 2 in D minor
Piano Trio No 3 in C major ‘The Great’
Arbor Piano Trio
rec. 2010, Český rozhlas Plzeň, Czech Republic
Naxos 8.572251 [74]

Although released back in 2012, this delightful disc somehow never received a review on the MusicWeb site. It’s a recording I’ve admired and returned to often over the years.

Martinů composed a great deal of chamber music; there are trios, quartets, quintets for various instrumental combinations in addition to duo sonatas. In them one hears the influence of such composers as Debussy, Roussel and the neoclassicism of Stravinsky. Yet Martinů’s own distinctive style permeates every score. I find them eminently approachable and accessible. The present CD gathers together his complete works for piano trio. These consist of two `formal’ three-movement trios, and two five-movement works entitled Cinq pieces breves and Bergerettes.

The earliest work is Cinq pieces breves, composed in 1930 when the composer lived in Paris (1923-1940). These are, as the title suggests, short pieces, neoclassical in style and clearly showing the influence of Stravinsky. Some of the movements are rather audacious. They’re certainly extrovert, with the second movement being more elegiac, and thus providing the only element of contrast in the work. Bergerettes, composed in 1939, I found less assertive, but having a rhythmic vitality throughout. It’s certainly not as percussive and angular in style as the earlier composition, but shares a similarity with it, in that all the movements are miniatures. Both works display virtuosic scoring, and showcase Martinů’s dexterity and fluency in writing for these three instruments in combination

The two works named as trios are structured on a much larger scale and are more classical in style. The 2nd Piano Trio in D minor was written in 1951. The first movement is a spirited Allegro moderato. There follows a quieter, more subdued Andante with a noble theme. It takes the form of a dialogue between the three instruments. The third movement is to all intents and purposes a scherzo with a rapid, repetitious ostinato. This creates a tension which adds momentum to the music.

Contemporary with the 2nd Trio is the 4th Trio, titled `The Great‘. I can only describe it as atonal, discordant and very dramatic in character. This mood pervades the entire work. The second movement begins darkly, and is expressive with a hint of desolation. An Allegro third movement brings the Trio to a lively conclusion.

The recorded sound is top-notch and the booklet notes are all one could wish for. I have much praise for the Arbor Piano Trio, who are excellent in every way and give the music the rhythmic urgency, vitality and thrust it requires.

Stephen Greenbank

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music
Arkiv Music