Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reber Piano Trios - Refined Elegance

Napoléon-Henri Reber may be almost unknown today, but in the 1850s he was a well-respected pedagogue and composer (Jules Massenet studied with him at one time). Although he wrote four symphonies, and several comic operas, Reber had an affinity for chamber music, which constitutes the bulk of his catalog.

Three of his seven piano trios are presented in this recording, each one a modest but delightful gem.

Reber's Trio No. 2 in E-flat major from 1840 sounded to me like a successful blend of Haydn's classicism and Schubert's melodiousness. The music beautifully expressive, with a hint of playfulness at times that I found rather appealing.

Trio No. 4 was written 12 years later. There's still some classical restraint. The melodies sound more expansive, with richer harmonic support. I was reminded somewhat of Mendelssohn in places.

The 1876 Trio No. 6 is the most mature in style. Reber's language is more chromatic, more in keeping with the romantic ideal. While I heard echoes of Mendelssohn in the fourth trio, here I seemed to detect traces of Schumann. This work also contained some interesting counterpoint -- not unexpected from a composition professor thoroughly familiar with the technique. And not a note of it sounded learned or academic.

The Trio Élégiaque play with taste and élan, bringing out the essential Gallic nature of Reber's works. These are performances that are both engaging and charming.

This is the second release of Napoléon-Henri Reber trios from the Trio Élégiaque. The first volume covered trios nos. 3, 5, and 7. Only the first trio unrecorded (for now). Based on these performances, I'll be seeking out that first volume, and looking forward to the release of the third.

Napoléon-Henri Reber: Trios 2, 4, and 6
Trio Élégiaque
Timpani 1C1239

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