The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, Christian Hilz (baritone)*
Composer: Froom, Deutsch, Sterk, Lauermann, Mumford

Here’s a lovely idea: piano trios by five composers otherwise unrepresented in the UK CD catalogue and united only by a common inspiration, the poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–73). The direct imagery and predominantly black mood of Bachmann’s poetry seems conducive to musical treatment. By the time of her untimely death (accident or suicide?) she had become the confidante and lyricist for Hans Werner Henze: two of his most lasting operas, Der Prinz von Homburg and Der junge Lord, were composed to her words.

The idea was dreamed up by the Haydn Trio, so it comes as no surprise to find that its players perform with feeling, at ease in each composer’s company. The piano trio by David Froom (b.1951), for example, demands a much stricter pulse than the yearning phrases of Curriculum vitae by Bernd Richard Deutsch (b.1977), infected by a telling quotation from the love duet of Wagner’s Tristan. Vocal expressionism becomes explicit in the heavily punctuated settings of Bachmann by Norbert Sterk (b.1968), but Christian Hilz’s cultivated baritone declamation does not convince me that Sterk has derived a musical structure to match the clarity of the poetry. Herbert Lauermann’s piece mooches around in much the same wan, dissipated mood, all sudden flourishes and extended echoes. The noises are nice but even vaguer in Jeffrey Mumford’s tribute, which does not live up to the grandeur of its ‘Maestoso sonoro’ subtitle, for all the sterling efforts of the Haydn Trio. Idea, engineering and execution are laudable; what’s in between lets them down.

Peter Quantrill