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Piano Trios by Clara Schumann, Rebecca Clarke & Alba Rosa Vietor - Storioni Trio

Piano Trios by Clara Schumann, Rebecca Clarke & Alba Rosa Vietor - Storioni Trio

Ars Produktion   ARS 38 162

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Clara Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor
Rebecca Clarke: Piano Trio (1921)
Alba Rosa Viëtor: Piano Trio in A minor (1951); Canzonetta (1939)

Storioni Trio

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - September 14, 2016

Bart van de Roer, Wouter Vossen and his brother Marc, playing together under the name “Storioni Trio”, were catapulted into fame soon after their establishment in 1995. Their hi-resolution recordings harvested many accolades, including Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with 'The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra' under Jan Willem de Vriend. This present disk somehow escaped reviewers’ attention. Unjustified, I’d say. Apart from excellent musical team work we have here a prime example of emancipation: Three female composers who deserve to be more widely known.

For a start, Clara Schumann, who lived for too long in the shadow of her husband, Robert. Understandable, in her time. Women were not supposed to show much other creative activity than embroidery & knitting. Widening the scope to Fanny Mendelssohn - who, unfortunately, is not represented here with her piano trio in D minor, Op. 11 - one wonders what both women could have contributed more than they did because of this taboo. This may have robbed us from many interesting and worthwhile romantic compositions.

The liner notes suggest that Clara’s music was largely influenced by Mendelssohn and her husband, Robert Schumann. I’m not so sure. Of course, mutual influence in a certain time frame exists, but I find the quality of Clara Schumann’s oeuvre such that it may have been the other way around as well. Listen to this trio and you know why.

The perfection the Storioni Trio gives to this work is beyond question. Interplay of the highest level. But that is partly also the weakness in that perfection is not always the best way forward. Some of the romantic impulse strays away. I’d personally prefer the rendition of the less famous ‘Boulanger Trio’. Maybe not as good, but so captivatingly romantic. It could be that the three women of this trio sense better the intrinsic value of Clara’s feelings.

I’m more impressed by the Storioni’s rendition of Rebecca Clarke’s Piano Trio. We are in a different period and perfection comes much better to its full advantage. It is modern and yet lyrical, or, as the liner notes have it: an amalgamation of Debussy, Ravel and Bartók. She, too, lived under male domination and of all she ever composed, little came to the surface. The Rebecca Clarke Society will surely appreciate the effort by these Dutch to bring her trio to a wider audience.

Rebecca's Trio requires musicians who are able to play as equal partners, and this is exactly what the Storioni’s are good at. The different parts melt into one precious sound scape enveloping the listener with a pleasant and rewarding discovery.

Her contemporary sister composer Alba Rosa Viëtor, of Italian-Dutch origin, took her creative work, like Rebecca, to the United States of America. We owe it to her son, Hendrik Viëtor, that some of it was saved from oblivion. Her one movement Piano Trio is played and recorded here as World Premiere and as such a valuable addition to the catalogue. It is followed by a short ‘Canzonetta’ with undeniable female romantic charm.

This disk is, also taking into account the sublime recording by ARS-Produktion, an absolute safe buy for Storioni fans and a most rewarding discovery for others.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2016 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comment by William Hecht - November 10, 2017 (1 of 5)

Piano trios are my favorite form of chamber music and since the introduction of sacd the Storioni have figured prominently in my collection. Not only are they fine musicians, but thay have the good fortune to be recorded by the likes of Ars, Challenge, and Pentatone so that whatever their artistic intentions they're faithfully conveyed by the recordings. I'd like to avoid the special pleading that comes with an emphasis on the gender of the composers and just comment upon the music. Clara Schumann's piece deserves a place in the regular trio repertory. Tracing influences is usually fruitless, someone else always disagrees, but if I didn't know I'd guess the piece was by one of the excellent composers between Beethoven and Brahms but not named Schubert, Mendelssohn or Robert Schumann, perhaps someone like Ries or Spohr. That's not a knock on the work, on the contrary, it's a really fine and enjoyable piece. Similarly the trio of Rebecca Clarke is a first rate work, worthy to be placed alongside the chamber music of Debussy and Ravel. The only other works of hers that I know are two versions of a work for viola, one orchestrated by Ruth Lomon to create a viola concerto and the other in the original form of sonata for viola and piano, Clarke: Viola Concerto - Bradley, Bell and Let Beauty Awake - Ellen Nisbeth / Bengt Forsberg. Both are excellently played and recorded. I know nothing else of Alba Rosa Vietor, in fact I'd never heard of her before and her one movement trio, while pleasing enough, raises no great expectations for whatever of her other works may eventually be recovered.

I haven't heard the alternative performance of the Schumann that Adrian cites, but I don't find the Storioni performance lacking in any significant way. My last comment concerns the sound. This is simply the most realistic recording of a piano trio, or for that matter any chamber ensemble, that I've ever heard. In multichannel the placement of the instruments is identical to the session photo and the balance between them is true to life. Just outstanding!

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - November 11, 2017 (2 of 5)

Hi Bill,

I, too, am a great lover of chamber music in general and piano trios in particular. It hasn’t always been like this. At the age of 14 I found investing in an LP with only three musicians a total waste of money as you could buy a 100 piece symphony orchestra for the same amount. But I suppose that at a certain age ones taste refines in line with all the good, immaterial things maturity entails.

Right now I’m reviewing the first volume of Beethoven piano trios by the ‘Van Baerle Trio’ (Challenge Classics) and my first impression is: ‘superb’. But I know that in one of the next volumes I will have to compare them with the Storionies. Always a difficult moment. Unlike what some reviewers want people to believe, things are hardly ever black or white. Most of today’s musicians are of a pretty high standard.

Subjective elements do play a role. With me too. I have a leaning toward the young and upcoming generation; give them a chance. A seasoned musician told me the other day (by way of speaking, that is) that youth is now so much better that what he had to play for his diploma is what they must be able to play for being admitted. With so much talent around, competition is as fierce as the demand for quality outside the music hall is scarce. Life for the young and the smaller labels is hard.

Adrian

(BTW: Like you I have all the Storioni recordings)

Comment by William Hecht - November 11, 2017 (3 of 5)

Oh yes, Adrian, it took me many years to get beyond the "Trout" and the Mozart clarinet quintet (thank the tv show MASH for that one), and for much the same reason: if I could have a symphony orchestra in full cry in my listenimg room why would I want to listen to three or four guys working their tails off? And that's how it always sounded to me, like hard work for meager reward. Thank heaven that insight eventually arrived and much pleasure with it.

Bill

PS I'll be looking forward to your review of the Van Baerle's Beethoven.

Comment by hiredfox - November 20, 2017 (4 of 5)

As an aside to your comment about the Trout, Bill, I was amused by a comment made by a Classic FM radio presenter on Saturday morning after playing Schubert's Piano Quintet in A.... "sometimes known as the Trout"

"sometimes"? - one of the most famous and loved pieces in the whole repertoire.

Comment by William Hecht - November 23, 2017 (5 of 5)

Maybe you could drop him a note to let him know that Beethoven's fifth piano concerto is "sometimes" known as the " Emperor". You never know, the information might come in handy sometime in the future.