Composers: Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke and Louise Farrenc
Performers: Neave Trio
Catalogue Number: Chandos CHAN20139
The Neave Trio has garnered much acclaim for its innovative programming. Signed to the prestigious Chandos label, its latest offering, Her Voice, examines the work of three pioneering female composers of the past 200 years: Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke, and the particularly underappreciated Louise Farrenc. The selections are described as a celebration, and indeed they reveal vivid contrasts between the artistic worlds of three diverse and groundbreaking composers.
For this release, the Neave Trio has selected Beach’s 1939 Piano Trio in A Minor, a moody, Impressionistic piece that draws for material on the composer’s songs. The Trio is lively and articulate in the more intricate passages. They bring great breadth to an expansive, central Lento espressivo movement, and emphasise the work’s late-Romantic nuances and nostalgic undertones.
While Beach is appearing in more programs of late, Clarke is still relatively uncommon. Her trio from 1921 has nevertheless appeared on a number of fine recordings, though the Neave Trio seems particularly well attuned to Clarke’s artistic subtleties. The trio for piano, cello, and violin is often thought of as a late-Romantic piece, but it was a radical period in Clarke’s career and the work is closer to someone like Bartók than other, more sumptuous composers. Here, an appreciation of the composer’s writing brings out a muscular and rich reading of the work.
Louise Farrenc studied in France, and was the student of the Czech-born, French composer Anton Reicha. She had considerable talent as both a performer and a composer, and from 1842 was the first female professor at the Paris Conservatoire where she taught piano for three decades. She was well known in her lifetime, but her legacy today is not widely appreciated.
A Belgian musicologist and critic wrote at the time that “the public is as a rule not a very knowledgeable one, whose only standard for measuring the quality of a work is the name of its author. Such were the obstacles that Madame Farrenc met along the way and which caused her to despair. Her work has fallen into oblivion today, when at any other epoch her works would have brought her great esteem.” Her inclusion here offers an excellent introduction to a genuine pioneer.
Farrenc’s three piano trios are all tremendous examples of the genre. Her Piano Trio in E Flat was written in 1843 and the Neave Trio, playing superbly throughout, offer an expansive and thoroughly enjoyable performance.