Atostrio: The French Album - Chaminade; Francaix; Debussy; Boulanger


Award winning German trio Atos Trio perform on this excellent Farao Classics release titled The French Album. Four works for piano trio make up the program, ranging from the seldom-heard Chaminade, Françaix and Boulanger pieces to one that lies at the core of the repertoire by Debussy. The music by the first three composers mentioned appear in only an alternate version or two while the Debussy is appropriately well represented with over a dozen alternatives in the catalog. However, there is nothing whatsoever lacking in Atos' performance of this piece, and it is nice to get these wonderful rarities alongside their superb performance of this masterpiece from Debussy's youth.

The album begins with Cécile Chaminade's Piano Trio No. 2 Op. 34, written in 1886. This is the least 'French' sounding music on the program. It opens impressively, big-boned and with a romantic spirit and texture we might more quickly associate with Brahms than with music coming from France at the time. The central Lento is especially lovely; from a recording made during a live performance, you can listen to it in the video below. The concluding Allegro energico, lively and dramatic is available as a sample from the album in the right sidebar.

In immediately apparent contrast to the Chaminade, next comes the 1986 Piano Trio by Jean Françaix, infused with the composer's typical satirical wit, playfulness, airy textures and tongue-in-cheek hoodwinks. Debussy's early Piano Trio in G major was written in 1880, when the composer was only 18 years of age. The piece is a charmer, and we can already hear the impressionistic tonal language that would forever enrich Western Music. The concluding D'un matin de printemps (On a spring morning) by Lili Boulanger, little sister of Nadia and the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913, gives a taste of what might have come from her had she lived beyond the age of 24.

These four wonderful and contrasting works were written over a span of more than a hundred years. While each is clearly cut from its own cloth, from a tonal perspective, they will all lie with equal ease in the comfort zone of any listener. Both Atos Trio and Farao beautifully realize the project; this recording is not to be missed by anyone drawn to the genre.