Sunday 17 May 2015

The Backman Trio should be congratulated for bringing together a premiere recording of Finnish composer Erik Bergman’s Piano Trio with works for piano trio by Ireland, Sibelius and Bridge in such fine performances on their debut recording for Fuga

The Backman Trio was formed in 2009 with their first season commencing with a summer tour of Finland before concerts in London and across England.  In 2011 they performed in the Erik Bergman Centenary Concert alongside Sakari Oramo and in the Emäsalo Music Festival. In 2012 they toured with their Young Composers programme, playing youthful works by Ireland, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Bergman and Sibelius at the Sibelius Museum in Turku and the Camerata Hall, in Helsinki’s world renowned new Music Centre.

The Backman Trio comprises Finnish violinist Frida Backman, British cellist Ruth Beedham and British pianist Marcus Andrews.

Their new recording for Fuga entitled Fantasia: British and Finnish Piano Trios includes the premiere recording of Erik Bergman’s Piano Trio Op. 2 together with works for piano trio by John Ireland, Jean Sibelius and Frank Bridge bringing a culmination of their work to promote Finnish and British music over the past four years.

FUGA 9371

Erik Bergman’s (1911-2006) Piano Trio, Op.2 (1939) opens with an Allegro con fuoco that has a fast flowing, tonally free theme for piano before the strings soon join.  The music drops to a slower section as the violin and cello weave a melody over the piano as we are taken through some fine passages, bounding from phrase to phrase before falling to a slower, quieter section. The music soon resumes its rhythmically lively tempo, then slows again before leading to a bracing coda.

The violin leads over the piano in the opening Tranquillo before the cello joins in this thoughtful, melancholy melody. There is a lovely section part way through where  the string players weave some very fine sonorities over a piano motif before the piano alone leads on, joined by the strings to lead to the tranquil end.

The Finale: Allegro con brio has a bright and breezy opening to which the Backman Trio bring some fine, fluent, detailed playing in the intricate opening. There are moments of gentler, almost playful, repose as well as passages of light-hearted fun picked up brilliantly by these players before rushing with great gusto to the coda.

What an attractive work this is. We need to hear more of this fine composer.

John Ireland (1879-1972) was around the same age as Bergman when he wrote his Phantasie Trio in A minor (1908). This early work brings some finely sensitive, characterful playing from the Backman Trio. They pace the second subject beautifully, weaving some exquisite moments with a subtle rubato before moving quickly and deftly to the coda.

The Fantasia, JS 209 (1887) by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is from his Piano Trio in D major, ‘Korpo’. There is a slow sonorous opening before the piano introduces a faster motif picked up by the cello over which the violin brings a longer melody. Soon a dance like rhythm appears, still flowing, to which they all join. The music here has something of the feel of a salon piece. It moves through a myriad of variations to which these players respond with brilliance. There is a slow, measured piano passage before a strange section full of unusual ideas, with fine string sonorities. A particularly lively, yet hushed section arrives out of which rises a rhythmic passage before the music rises in passion centrally. This is rather sprawling piece even for a Fantasia with too many fascinating details to enumerate before the music flows forward, confidently, to the coda.  It is brilliantly played by the Backmans.

Frank Bridge’s (1879-1941) Phantasie Piano Trio in C minor (1907) is again an early work written when the composer was in his late twenties. The Backman Trio bring a fine panache to the opening. The music slows, becoming darker and is sensitively conveyed here. They slowly develop the music, bringing some fine ensemble and much passion. There is a fine broad, rather languid passage before a slow, quiet, sensitively drawn section, exquisitely phrased.  The theme is taken by the cello in a fine solo before being taken up by the violin after which they all take the melody, rising in subtle passion. These players move the music ahead, full of energy, bringing much beauty and freshness to this music. After a more restrained section with fine sonorities from the strings and a lovely piano accompaniment the music rises up to a fresh and buoyant coda.

Lasting just under one and a half minutes, Jean Sibelius’ unassuming little Andantino in G minor, JS 43 (1887-88) is finely played before his Allegro in D major, JS 27 (1886) which arrives full of rhythmic drive with these players really throwing themselves into it. There are some very fine individual moments in the central section before moving quickly to its conclusion.

The Backman Trio should be congratulated for bringing together these works, particularly the rare Bergman, in such fine performances. They are nicely recorded at the City of London School and there are excellent booklet notes.

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