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Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Piano Trio in G minor, op. 3 (1881) [30:00]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Piano Trio in D minor, op. 120 (1922) [19:39]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Arrangements by John White
Prière pour le salut de mon âme [3:29]
Le Piège de Méduse – seven dances [3:43]
Fidelio Trio
rec. 2018, New Maltings, Alpheton, UK

This is the second disc of French trios by the Irish-based Fidelio Trio that I’ve reviewed; the previous one was a couple of years ago and featured the Ravel and the second Saint-Saëns. I’d actually forgotten that recording – not a good sign, you may be thinking – and this new one tends to bear out why that might have been.

Back then, my conclusion was that the performances were a little too straight-forward, especially in the Ravel. Here it is the Fauré that suffers most from a certain lack of imagination. It is a work that reveals its secrets and pleasures almost unwillingly. It is certainly not one that will create an impression unless the performers are prepared to tease out its subtleties. That doesn’t happen here – what we get is an almost superficial reading that frankly bored me. Compare it to the Horszowski Trio on Bridge Classics (review) – the difference is chalk and cheese. It isn’t a matter of tempos as there is only 13 seconds difference between the two, but the flair, passion and even humour by the Horszowskis puts the Fidelios in the shade.

For me, the Chausson is one of the best “unsung” piano trios in the repertoire. It is often derided as being no more than a student piece, but that is simply not fair. It is a work that is very French, and by turns, playful and passionate and full of melodies throughout. The slow movement is gloriously and intensely passionate, though that’s not the impression one gets in this recording, which is rather cold and unemotional. The Fidelios are almost a full two minutes faster in this movement than Trio Wanderer, one of the best in this work, and that robs it of so much. The faster movements are better, but still don’t really compete with the best.

As far as I’m aware, Satie didn’t write any music for this medium. The Fidelios commissioned John White to make some arrangements of his keyboard music, which is what we have here. The seven dances from the ballet Le Piège de Méduse come and go so quickly that they make little or no impression at all – the longest is just 46 seconds! Prière pour le salut de mon âme from his sole liturgical work, Messe des Pauvres for organ, is very slow and spare, consisting of alternating and repetitive sections for solo cello and piano. Only in the last 30 seconds do the two instruments play together; if the violin was involved at all, I couldn’t hear it.

The recording quality is good, as are the notes. My other criticism of the earlier recording was its rather mean running time. Here, we have the same problem, and since I can only describe the Satie pieces as inconsequential “fillers”, there is even less excuse for not giving us the other Saint-Saëns or another full-scale French trio.

So my conclusion must be that you can find far more enriching versions of the two trios elsewhere, and I can’t really imagine anyone other than Satie obsessives buying this for his seven minutes, which of course aren’t really him anyway.

David Barker



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