Claude Debussy’s Piano Trio was his first extant instrumental composition and an impressive start by one of the greatest of the greats. First discovered in the 1980s, this composition distinguished by youthful impetuosity affords us spectacular audio insights into the artistic development of this later master of French impressionism. The Trio Parnassus was one of the first ensembles to incorporate the new discovery into its repertoire, presenting it in an exquisite digital release along with Ravel’s mature masterpiece – reason enough for this long-overdue rerelease.
At First Sight
It was Tchaikovsky’s friend Nadezhda von Meck who saved the previously unsuccessful Debussy for the music world by hiring the eighteen-year-old to serve as a piano teacher and song accompanist for her daughters during their summer trips through Europe. During his prima vista chamber music performances every evening Debussy certainly learned more than his Paris teachers ever could have taught him. And so it is that reminiscences of Schumann, Fauré, and Massenet – and of course of Tchaikovsky – are found in his trio. Academic formal elaboration recedes into the background, overwhelmed by a superabundance of thematic ideas – but what’s wrong with that?
By contrast, in Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio we witness the sovereignty of a self-assured artist. The curiosity about foreign cultures typical of the impressionists is immediately registered in the title of the second movement: “Pantoum” refers to a declamatory form in Malay poetry, and Ravel masterfully transforms it into a virtuosic scherzo with three rhythmically competing themes. For Ravel wanderlust and rootedness were not opposing terms: with its wild alternation between 5/4 and 7/4 time the last movement creates associations with the composer’s Basque homeland.
Over the Years
The Trio Parnassus celebrated its MDG debut with this benchmark recording – the beginning of an unexampled success story. Several dozen trailblazing releases have followed, and this exceptional ensemble has continued to record exclusively for the noble Detmold label. The music press has repeatedly expressed its enthusiasm. Numerous recording prizes, including two coveted ECHO Klassik prizes, attest to the highest level of musical performance.