Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Chicago's Lincoln Trio spotlights "Trios from Our Homelands"

'The Lincoln Trio bows toward three heritages.
In their latest Cedille recording, "Trios from Our Homelands," members of the Lincoln Trio look across the water to countries central to the heritage of each. They share the advocacy with equanimity  through the strength of their performances.

The project yields a program consisting of works by Rebecca Clarke (England), Arno Babajanian (Armenia), and Frank Martin (Switzerland), acknowledging the origins, respectively, of cellist David Cunliffe, pianist Marta Aznavoorian,  and violinist Desiree Rustrat.

Performances are exemplary. I was happiest to make the acquaintance of Clarke's Piano Trio, which dates from 1922. Untouched by the modernism that was then ascendant, the 241/2-minute work makes its most impressive statement in the first movement, Moderato ma appassionato. The respite provided by the second movement seems genuine; and it is most welcome, because the finale, while still gripping, becomes grandiloquent.

Ramping up that kind of feeling is a specialty of the Babajanian, which opens glumly, soon introducing portents from the piano that indicate the expansive development to come. There's plenty of sweetness tucked in amid the dramatic episodes. In general, while the Lincolns doubtless bring this off convincingly in concert, the piece wears its heart on both sleeves. That stamps it as being a little too unrestrained in showing off, and thus a bit wearying.

The modest tribute to Ireland that Martin offers in his "Trio on Popular Irish Melodies" offers a happy contrast to conclude the disc. The Swiss composer's three-movement tribute is infused with the spirit of folk dance. By the time you get to the third movement, you come to understand how this methodical composer got swept off his feet by the material, which carries its native Irish charm lightly and persuasively.