Wide-ranging trio repertoire proves to be a mixed bag

Neave Trio: Musical Remembrances

The Strad Issue: July 2022

Description: Wide-ranging trio repertoire proves to be a mixed bag

Musicians: Neave Trio

Works: Brahms: Piano Trio no.1. Ravel: Piano Trio. Rachmaninoff: Trio élégiaque no.1

Catalogue number: CHANDOS CHAN 20167 

This fourth release by the Neave Trio for Chandos follows discs of American, French and women composers. The works here span a mere 60 years, but the stylistic imprints are distinctive and varied, a challenge to which the trio has bravely but not always successfully risen.

The Brahms is the high point, with a characteristic warm, easy-going lyricism in the first movement that contrasts with ample muscle when the going gets turbulent. The Scherzo has a decent lightness of touch, while the Adagio, with its hushed wide piano chords and pliant responses from strings, reaches that Brahmsian sublimity, hampered (according to taste) only by violinist Anna Williams’s dialling down of vibrato, an expressive effect, but one that has the tone in danger of breaking up.

The Rachmaninoff and Ravel are less convincing, especially in a crowded field. Though the pieces are well played, it’s the stylistic rightness that feels missing: the frozen beauty, cool precision and evanescent colourings of the Ravel, the effusive Romanticism and darker tonal colouring of the Rachmaninoff. Likewise the sound quality is fine, but the blend isn’t seamless. A perfectly presentable release; but, as Will Smith says in the film Hitch, ‘What if I want extraordinary?’