BBC Radio 3’s ‘Record Review’ programme this morning contained a ‘Building a Library’ feature on the Ravel Trio. Reviewer Jeremy Sams, a well-known Francophile, compared the available recordings.
Mentioning the enormous technical difficulty of all three instrumental parts, he quoted Ravel as having said that he loved the fact that it was difficult because it meant that it ‘wouldn’t be murdered by amateurs’. True enough – now that I come to think of it, I have never heard it attempted by an amateur group. On the contrary, I have only heard good performances and recordings by very accomplished musicians.
Many fine recordings were discussed this morning, but I’m delighted to say that Jeremy’s eventual top choice was the Florestan Trio’s 1999 recording on the Hyperion label. ‘Emotion and precision – the essence of Ravel’, he said of our recording. ‘Expressive and emotional, but self-contained; wild and extravagant, but within the tempo’.
And allow me a moment of vanity: talking about the second movement, a whirling lightning-tempo waltz which ushers in a beautiful lyrical theme in the middle of the movement, Jeremy played an excerpt of the Florestan recording and commented, ‘The beauty is the way the piano tune is played by Susan Tomes … it couldn’t be done better.’
The Ravel Trio has long been one of my favourite pieces of chamber music, and our Hyperion CD is one of my favourites amongst the Florestan’s recordings, so Jeremy Sams’ choice was very gratifying.