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Elegiac Stories
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Elegy for Piano Trio, Op.23 [5:27]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Piano Trio in g minor, Op.15 [27:01]
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Prefigurations (Piano Trio) [8:45]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Piano Quartet in a minor [11:55]
Sketch for a Scherzo Movement [1:20]
Eben Trio (Terzie Fialová (piano), Roman Patočka (violin), arkéta Kubínová Vrbková (cello)) guest: Kristina Fialová (viola) on Mahler works
rec. Martinů Hall, Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, (Academy of Performing Arts, Prague) Czech Republic, March 2012
ARCODIVA UP 0143 2 211 [54:56]

I would describe myself as a happy person yet the music I find I’m invariably drawn to is that which is serious even sombre. This mood taps into my soul more directly and helps me reflect on things more effectively. The mere title of this disc appealed to me straightaway.
 
Josef Suk’s Elegy for Piano Trio started out as a work written for violin, cello, string quartet, harmonium and harp. It was composed to mark the first anniversary of the death of writer, dramatist and poet Julius Zeyer (1841-1901). The arrangement heard here for piano trio is more effective with the achingly beautiful tune coming out in a more undiluted fashion which makes the clean lines so much more telling. Someone wrote that if one had identified Suk’s music as being by Dvořák then one would be as close to being right while still being wrong. The music of Suk who was Dvořák’s son-in-law was so very similar, occupying the same central European romantic soundscape.
 
Smetana poured his feelings of anguish into his piano trio; anguish caused by the death firstly from tuberculosis then scarlet fever of two of his four young daughters in one year (1854-55) with a third dying in 1856 aged only eight months. He was particularly hit by the death of four year old Bedřiška who was already musically talented. He sought solace in writing this most affecting trio quickly between September and November of 1855 immediately following Bedřiška’s death. Music is so much more able to express such deeply felt emotions than mere words can ever be. This explains why many novelists envy composers for that ability. Smetana’s sadness is almost palpable in this work which he subjected to two revisions. This final version is a cry from the heart to which everyone can readily respond.
 
Sylvie Bodorová is a new name to me so I was very interested to hear her Prefigurations which she wrote in 1983. The opening is bleak in the extreme with a three note theme which eventually grows in scope but with the music always remaining very spare. Bodorová explains that the music tries to capture the situation in which “we see or experience an image of reality for which we have been wishing. But suddenly it vanishes and we are left with just a belief or an awareness of the prefiguration.” I don’t pretend to understand the concept but was nevertheless interested to hear the work which has an ethereal feeling to it and which acts as a kind of aural palate-cleanser in between the other works which come from the richly ‘romantic’ tradition.
 
It was interesting to read that while Gustav Mahler wrote so much music in so many genres he wrote no chamber music apart from this most lovely one-movement quartet. This he began at the age of sixteen during his first year at the Vienna Conservatoire. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as I did and puzzle not to say regret that he never added to it since such promise is indicated that he had within him the capacity to have produced some wonderful chamber works. The last item added as a ‘bonus’ is a fragment lasting a mere eighty seconds and again tantalises with promise unrealised.
 
The Eben Trio play all the works beautifully and when they are joined by Kristina Fialová (Terezie’s sister?) they become a very effective quartet. I’m sure we will hear more from these talented musicians.
 
Steve Arloff 


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