Per Nørgård, Bent Sørensen, Hans Abrahamsen: Phantasmagoria
01 August 2013
Richard WhitehouseCopenhagen ensemble play piano trios by living Danes
The piano trio in Denmark is alive and well, judging from this new release by Trio Con Brio Copenhagen, which shows this technically exacting medium in a varied perspective. Of the two works written for and dedicated to the ensemble, Bent Sørensen's Phantasmagoria (2006-07) draws on nocturnal imagery over its five movements: a nominally robust opening one gradually being infiltrated by more elusive elements that intensify in the two which follow, before a Ligetian interplay of the mysterious and mechanical leads to a speculative resolution. Although its six movements ostensibly unfold more as a sequence of overt contrasts, Hans Abrahamsen 's Traumlieder (198412009) feels hardly less cohesive in follow-through - the initial three positing subtly oblique moods that intensify going into the powerful Marcia funebre, whose pathos is vehemently denied by a Scherzo misterioso before the epitaph 'For the Children' offers us at least a glimpse of transcendence.
The other piano trio is now a classic of the genre, though Per Nørgård's Spell (1973) must have seemed disconcerting when it appeared four decades ago in its fusion of formal precision and expressive intuition couched in an essentially consonant musical idiom. Yet this compact piece takes in a good deal of incident during its 15 minutes, guided by a transition from incremental rhythmic and harmonic change towards a melodic flowering which is denied by a sense of its own impermanence in the greater scheme of things. There have been several recordings but this makes the most persuasive case yet for one of the composer's defining works. W ell-balanced and finely detailed sound, together with informative notes, though a pity about the short playing time: could Nørgård's Trio breve, premiered by this ensemble just last year, not have been included? Even so, the disc's qualities are such as not to preclude a warm recommendation.