Monday, September 30, 2019

Neave Trio Profiles Three Women Composers

courtesy of Jensen Artists

This Friday Chandos Records will release the latest album of the Neave Trio, whose members are violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov, and pianist Eri Nakamura. This site last wrote about this ensemble a little less than a year ago with the release of their Celebrating Piazzolla album by Azica Records. The title of the new album is Her Voice, and it honors three distinguished women composers. On the recording they are recognized in order of birth year: Louise Farrenc (1804), Amy Beach (1867), and Rebecca Clarke (1886). As usual, is processing pre-orders for this album.

Those who have read my dispatches for some time, not only on this site but also back in the days of, probably know that San Francisco is a good city for those interested in women composers. For a brief time this was Beach’s home; and, unless I am mistaken, at least one of her compositions was given its first performance here. Clarke has also had several champions, particularly among those presenting chamber music recitals. As a result, my own “first encounter” was with Farrenc; and it is where my attention was most closely focused.

Farrenc composed four piano trios between 1841 and 1856, all for piano and cello. The violin was the third instrument for the first two, Opus 33 in E-flat major and Opus 34 in D major, both of which were completed in 1844. The other two had wind instruments for the “high voice.” Opus 44 in E-flat major was written for clarinet, and Opus 45 in E minor was written for flute. Both of these were composed between 1854 and 1856.

The trio on this album is Opus 33. As a frame of reference, it is worth remembering that Robert Schumann composed his Opus 44 piano quintet in E-flat major in 1842. Whether or not Farrenc was aware of this piece, Schumann definitely holds the upper hand when it comes to both technical skill and invention. Stylistically, Farrenc’s Opus 33 is more in a league with Johannes Brahms’ youthful Opus 8 (the first version) in B major, which was completed in 1854. One can also detect a few tropes from the chamber music of Ludwig van Beethoven. However, if the music falls short of its contemporaries, it still offers much to engage the serious listener.

The Beach selection is her Opus 150 trio, composed in 1938; and Clarke trio was composed in 1921. My experience with both of these trios dates back to my time with, when they were both on an album recorded by the Trio des Alpes. Both of these trios confront the listener with much stronger rhetoric, which should not be surprising considering how much earlier the Farrenc trio is. Nevertheless, the Neave Trio makes a solid case that Farrenc could hold her own alongside other post-Beethoven composers; and I, for one, would be happy to encounter an album that serves up all four of her piano trios.

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