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Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Trio for violin, cello and harp (1944) [17:07]
Henriette RENIÉ (1875-1956)
Trio for violin, cello and harp (1901) [31:41]
Danse des lutins, for solo harp [4:16]
Johan HALVORSEN (1864-1935)
Passacaglia for violin and cello in G minor (after Handel’s Keyboard Suite No. 7) [7:25]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Lob der Tränen, S.557/R.242 (arr. Vogel & Guérout, adapted Milot-Bareil-Tétreault) [3:47]
Antoine Bareil (violin), Stéphane Tétreault (cello), Valérie Milot (harp)
rec. 2017, St-Augustin-de-Mirabel Church, Quebec
ANALEKTA AN29888 [64:16]

This release takes me slightly away from my usual area of interest of piano-led trios. Rather than a desire to expand my trio survey, I chose this more from curiosity and because it was in danger of being unrequested and taken to the charity shop by Len Mullenger. I have to say that my expectations were not high, as my previous experience with harp works tended to the pretty but uninvolving end of the spectrum. However, for the two trios at least, I was impressed.

The presence of the Ibert was the main musical reason to request this disc. What I had heard of him I had liked: not deep or profound, but beautifully crafted, entertaining, light but not superficial. This trio fits those descriptions perfectly. As you see by its date, it was written during wartime, on the request of his harpist daughter, who apparently offered to “pay” him with as many cigarettes as she could obtain. It features an ethereal opening Allegro, a quite beautiful Andante and rather unusually, a Scherzo(ando) to finish, which is motoric and virtuosic.

I’d never heard of Henriette Renié before; that would seem to be because my knowledge of composers for the harp is rather slim. She was something of a child prodigy, winning the Premier Prix from the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 for her playing of the harp. She was also the first girl to take the fugue and composition class at the Conservatoire. It was her teacher there, Charles Lenepveu, to whom this trio was dedicated. It is a substantial work at over 30 minutes, and I wondered whether it would be another example of a little-known composer overreaching themselves and running out of ideas, but I was to be pleasantly surprised, both in how well sustained the invention was, but also in the passion and drama achieved without the presence of a piano. Without wishing to overstate the work’s quality, had Brahms chosen to write for this combination, he would have been pleased with an outcome such as this. It is undeniably French, but it has a Germanic strength to it that I wouldn’t have expected. Quite a surprise, then.

The remaining works – one can hardly call them “fillers” given that there is still more than a quarter of an hour of empty space on the disc - are a little disappointing in that two of them aren’t for the full ensemble and the third is an arrangement made for this recording. The Renié makes considerable demands on the harpist, rather more so than on the listener. The Halvorsen is a well-known work, though normally for violin and viola. It is well played and perfectly effective in this alternate arrangement, but given the harp is perhaps the selling point for the recording, it seems a somewhat forced inclusion. The Schubert song, adapted by the players, is bittersweet, but without voice and words, is stripped of its meaning.

The tonal qualities of all three players are quite excellent, and the sound afforded them by the engineer is similarly good. The booklet notes, in French and English, spend as much space on the performers as the composers and works. I should mention that anyone intending to purchase this as a download from Presto will not get the booklet, but you can find it at the label’s website.

The two full-scale trios demonstrate the potential for this combination, but sadly the other works simply highlight the paucity of repertoire available.

David Barker



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