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Gems from the Belgian Treasure Trove
François RASSE (1873-1955)
Piano trio, op. 16 (dedicated to Eugène Ysaÿe) (1897) [23:26]
Joseph RYELANDT (1870-1965)
Piano trio no. 1, op. 57 (1914-15) [17:30]
Victor VREULS (1876-1944)
Piano trio, op. 1 (1896) [32:29]
I Giocatori Piano Trio (Hendrik Ide (violin); Ludo Ide (cello); Hans Ryckelynck (piano))
rec. Miry Concert Hall, Royal Conservatory, Ghent, January and March, 2013
PHAEDRA PH92080 [73:25]

The sleeve-notes describe this recording as “difficult to be more Belgian”, given how the origins of the three composers – Ryelandt, a Flamande, Vreuls, a Walloon and Rasse, from Brussels – reflect the nation’s diversity. I had not heard music by any of the three previous to this, indeed, Ryelandt was the only name I recognised. Nevertheless, a quick sampling of the music via the Phaedra website led me to break out the credit card.
 
The three works are of similar style and very much of their time and place. If you appreciate the trios of Brahms and Franck, then these will provide you with much to please. They are unfailingly melodic, tending towards the rhapsodic, rather than the dramatic. Only three of the eight movements – the Ryeland has only two – have allegro-type tempos, which will give you a sense that this is not music to storm the barricades. The Vreuls is both the most substantial creation, at more than thirty minutes, and also the most impressive.
 
As you will have seen from their names, the members of the I Giocatori Piano Trio are Belgian, not Italian. While I obviously have nothing to compare these performances with, the ensemble makes a positive impression. Perhaps there could be a little more drama infused in certain places – the Allegro Appassionato first movement of the Rasse is not especially passionate – but that may be the composer, not the performers.
 
I couldn’t see anywhere in the brief, but perfectly adequate, notes that these were premiere recordings, but I can find no other versions. These are not lost masterpieces, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three, particularly the Vreuls.
 
David Barker