Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
Most “concept albums” don’t work. This one does. Dubbed “Trios from our Homelands”, the three members of the Lincoln Trio have each chosen a piece from their native countries: England, Armenia, and Switzerland. It’s a cute idea, and that’s all it would be if the musical quality of the three works presented were not so high, and the program so effective. What we really have, musically speaking, is a splendid concert of three excellent 20th-century chamber works, at least two of which will likely be new to most listeners, played with proprietary zeal and recorded with perfect discretion and naturalness.
The work you might know is Swiss composer Frank Martin’s delightful but hardly overexposed Trio on Popular Irish Melodies, a minor masterpiece of genuinely involving thematic workmanship and expressive economy. Perhaps the biggest “find” is Rebecca Clarke’s dazzling Piano Trio (1922), a major work by any standard that you might describe as Bartók with English folk inflections rather than Hungarian. The ensemble writing throughout is intense, melodically fresh, and altogether masterful, its three movements well-proportioned, and the Lincoln Trio simply plays the bejesus out of it.
Armenian composer Arno Babajanian (1921-83) was a major voice in his country’s musical development. His Piano Trio in F-sharp minor is a romantic work written with a heart-on-sleeve passion that never turns tacky or descends into cheap nationalist musical gestures. Its three movements might be a bit lacking in contrast, but the argument never goes slack and, once again, it would be difficult to imagine a finer performance. Intelligently assembled programs like this one are all too rare, but the Lincoln Trio shows us that they are possible, and set a standard that other groups would do well to emulate.
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Recording Details:Album Title: TRIOS FROM OUR HOMELANDS
Reference Recording: None
Rebecca Clarke: Trio for violin, violoncello, and piano
Arno Babajanian: Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor
Frank Martin: Trio on Popular Irish Melodies