The Lincoln Trio’s Outstanding Sowerby and Bacon on Cedille

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

These are two major works, all but unknown: big, serious, superbly written and (here) superbly played and recorded. Ernst Bacon is best known for his large output of art songs. He enjoyed a long life (1898-1990), and both of this piano trios are late works. The experience shows. Expertly organized in seven chain-like movements lasting about half an hour, it starts with a lengthy slow introduction leading to a brief march. A gentle Andante then precedes the heart of the work at its exact center, a poignant slow movement marked “gravely expressive.” From there the mood brightens and the tempo picks up. The last three movements are an Allegro, a brief but leisurely Commodo (“comfortable”), and a zippy concluding Vivace. At no point does any movement outstay its welcome, and the thematic material, perhaps a bit elusive at first, winds up grabbing you by the end.

The title of this album, “Trios From the City of Big Shoulders,” comes from a poem by Carl Sandburg describing Chicago, and it applies especially to Leo Sowerby’s Piano Trio, which has three generously proportioned movements lasting a total of nearly forty minutes. Like the Bacon, this is a very serious work, nowhere more so than in the exquisitely captivating slow movement, marked “Quiet and serene.” Sowerby was best known as a composer of church and organ works; you hear that clearly in its organ-like opening, the mood effortlessly sustained throughout the music’s length. Also like its discmate, Sowerby’s use of “expanded tonality” results in thematic material that may take a moment or two to settle in, but the style basically explains itself as the music proceeds, drawing you into its expressive orbit.

As mentioned at the start of this review, the performances are outstanding. The Lincoln Trio plays with ideal balances between the three players, the strings never sound harsh or sour, their dynamic range is wide and their sonority full and satisfying. Cedille’s engineering is state of the art. If you collect good, original, little-known chamber music, then this disc represents a mandatory acquisition.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

    Lincoln Trio

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