Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lincoln Trio presents a Spanish composer's personal exploration in chamber music of his Andalusian heritage

A significant number of 20th-century American composers came into their own through study in Paris, chiefly with Nadia Boulanger. Earlier in the 1900s, a composer from a geographically closer but still culturally distant milieu acquired his own voice in the French capital.

Like the Americans — including Virgil Thomson, Elliott Carter, and Aaron Copland — Joaquin Turina benefited during his foreign sojourn (1905-1914) from exposure to his Spanish
The Lincoln Trio probes the chamber music of Joaquin Turina.
countrymen. In Turina's case,  these were the eminent creative figures of Manuel de Falla and Isaac Albeniz.

What they urged upon him, according to Andrea Lamoreaux's program notes for a new Cedille Records CD set by the Lincoln Trio and guests, was cultivation of his homegrown musical traditions, bringing his sophisticated education to bear upon it.

Returning to Madrid with the onset of World War I, Turina made his mark as a composer and conductor. The new recording presents on two discs his works for piano and strings.

You can hear Turina's mainstream romantic roots in his Quintet in G minor, op. 1. There is a knack for establishing atmosphere in the muted opening of the first movement; his inclination toward an impressionism he would learn to call his own is immediately apparent. But the work becomes full-throatedly 19th-century in expression — chromatic, layered and quasi-orchestral; influences of both Franck and Wagner are discernible. (Violinist Jasmine Lin and violist Ayane Kozasa are neatly folded into the host ensemble of Desiree Ruhstrat, violin; David Cunliffe, cello; and Mara Aznavoorian, piano.)

The work follows the Piano Quartet in A minor, op. 67, on Disc Two. Turina's mature gift for smoothly presenting a variety of texture and color shows up here. There are declamatory passages for violin and cello that grab the attention and foreshadow the internal drama to come. Thematically, we get lilting, dancing melodies and what seem to be folkloric elements. These are well displayed in the brisk, three-minute "Vivo" second movement. The performance is dazzling.

The highlights on Disc One are two piano trios with opus numbers, following a Piano Trio in F major that's both gripping and academic. In Opp. 35 and 76, Turina is at his best presenting dialogue opportunities for the three instruments; the conversation is carried out zestfully by the Lincoln Trio.  Formal novelties complement the idiosyncratic handling of melody and harmony: in Op. 35 in D major, the first-movement "Prelude and Fugue" moves from the slow, highly chromatic introduction to a fugue of unusually relaxed character. The subsequent two movements — a thoughtful theme-and-variations and a passionate sonata— bring out the Lincoln Trio's most expressive playing.

Each disc ends with a refined character piece. "Circulo," op. 91, memorializes three times of day — from dawn through noon to twilight. This eloquent trio offers fruitful comparisons to Disc Two's sextet,"Escena Andaluza," in two movements that show how well Turina distilled his take on impressionism. The dark instrumentation, keyed to a solo viola accompanied by piano and string quartet, makes of "Crepuscule du soir" and "A la fenetre" something peculiarly haunting.  Kozasa is the enthralling solo violist; other guests on hand are violinist Aurelien Fort Pederzoli and violist Doyle Armbrust.