Joel Pitchon, Marie-Volcuy Pelletier, and Y-Mei Wei had a very specific program in mind for this recording. In the liner notes, they state that they wanted piano trios that “spoke with an American, and even more narrowly, a New England voice.” In the end their focus was even tighter.
The four piano trios on this release are all indeed from New England. In fact, they’re all tied to Harvard University. Walter Piston was on the Harvard faculty when Leonard Bernstein studied with him. Ronald Perara also attended Harvard, studied with Leon Kirchner.
Three of the four works presented receive their world premiere recordings.
These trios are all finely crafted, but it’s the craft of the musicians that animate them. Pitchon, Pelletier, and Wei perform organically, playing as with one accord. This was the music they sought out to record, and they own it.
Walter Piston’s first trio was composed in 1935; his second in 1966. The two works frame the program, providing a certain amount of context.
Bernstein’s piano trio is a student work, written just a few years after his teacher’s. There’s a distinctive difference, though. Knowing what Bernstein would late compose, one can hear traces of popular music embedded in the trio.
Ronald Perara’s 2002 trio is the most recent on the release. And yet it has strong connections with the others. Perara’s work is, like Piston’s trios, an exercise in pure music. And tonally based music at that.
I think the musicians succeeded in their goal. These are works of great artistry and individuality. While there is a commonality to them, the voices of each composer take each trio in slightly different directions.
Harvard’s music composition program could use this release as a recruiting tool.
New England Trios
Joel Pitchon, violin, Marie-Volcuy Pelletier, cello; Yu-Mei Wei, piano
Bridge Records 9530