Audiophile Audition

January 13, 2011

Beethoven: Piano Trio No. 3 in C, Op. 1
Ravel: Piano Trio
The Claremont Trio
Tria 3862, 55:16

I was tempted to write off this release before even listening to it due to the "babe" motive these gals are trying to sell themselves with on the album cover and booklet. These two sisters and friend are eye-candy, no doubt, and I guess these days a girl has to do what a girl has to do to get noticed. But it has become such a trend that some record companies focus on these sorts of thing so exclusively that you begin to wonder if there are any other talented musical people in the classical world aside from young girls. [I agree, but this cover is most circumspect compared to some others we've received - such as the one with her violin covering the topless young violinist...Ed.]

But listen I dutifully did, and the three luscious ladies definitely had the last word in this argument—these are some of the most impassioned, moving, and notable readings

of these favorites that I have ever heard, bar none. I am especially picky about the Beethoven, one of my favorites and to this point best projected by the legendary Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio. But the Claremont has their measure fully, and this is something I never thought I would say. They give little quarter to Beethoven the classicist and focus fully on the temperamental and tempestuous young genius fresh from the halls of Haydn's tutelage. The results are stunning, and they make this early opus, one of the first truly independently-voiced trios, seem like years later than it was actually composed. I hope they continue on with all of the trios.

The notes tell us that the Claremont performed these works 10 years ago while at Juilliard, and it shows here, as these are not natural discmates despite the contention in the notes that the Ravel fulfills the Op. 1work. They are in fact quite different, and though one might be able to find resemblances from a theoretical standpoint, the fact remains that Ravel's neo-classic and hothouse world of color and atmosphere is a long way removed from the Bonn composer. But the Claremont is able to turn on a dime and give us a sensual and exotic reading of great proportion and eminently balanced textures and scintillating melodic emphasis. This might be the best reading on disc, and that is saying a lot.

The sound is close and secure, nicely spread with lots of breathing room. This disc is quite the stunner, and can be recommended under any circumstances no matter how many versions of these works that you own.

—Steven Ritter