The Strad Issue: January 2017
Description: Three rousing trios from Armenia, England and Switzerland
Musicians: Lincoln Trio
Composer: Babadjanian, Clarke, Martin
Catalogue number: CEDILLE CDR 90000 165

The Chicago-based Lincoln Trio has come up with a charming idea for this well-recorded project, combining pieces from its members’ countries of origin: England, Armenia and Switzerland. With its pentatonic melodic motifs, ostinato rhythms and exotic harmonies, Rebecca Clarke’s Trio reminds me of Bloch’s Suite, the composition that famously pipped her Viola Sonata to the post at the first Coolidge Competition. Was she second-guessing the jury’s taste with this second attempt at the prize? If so, it didn’t help: this time she lost to fellow violist H. Waldo Warner. Be that as it may, Clarke’s Trio is an important work and is done full justice by the Lincoln players in a forceful, full-blooded reading. Much is made of the massive motto theme that holds together the rhapsodic first movement and of the stylised fiddling of the finale.

Fiddle tunes also form the basis of Frank Martin’s Trio, based on Irish popular melodies filtered through the prism of Martin’s sophisticated muse. The Chicagoans maintain a fine balance between stricture and abandon, with the yearning slow movement an emotional high point.

Arno Babadjanian premiered (and recorded) his Trio with David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Knushevitsky. The writing is accordingly succulent, and the Lincoln players dig into it with gusto, making a convincing case for this rousing Armenian extravaganza.

Carlos María Solare