As another preview to this evening's concert by Trio con Brio Copenhagen at the Library of Congress (February 18, 8 pm), with violist James Dunham, we have been listening to the first solo CD debut by the group's Danish pianist, Jens Elvekjær. You may recall from my exclusive review of Elvekjær's American solo recital debut last month at Dumbarton Oaks that his playing struck me as a little hard-edged, reminiscent at times of the big-boned sound of Daniel Barenboim. The same weightiness comes across on this recording: not that the aquatic parts of the Ravel (Ondine) and Debussy (L'Isle Joyeuse) selections do not have a silvery sparkle, but there is a certain percussive crunch heard even in the soft passagework (these tracks were actually recorded back in 2004, in Birkerød, Denmark).
Franck, Ravel, Debussy, J. Elvekjær
(released on April 18, 2007)
Classico ClassCd 711
Perhaps because of the seemingly innate francophilia of many Russians, recent performances of Gaspard de la Nuit by Yevgeny Sudbin (live) and Anna Vinnitskaya (CD) have hit closest to the version truest to the mark, Alexandre Tharaud's complete Ravel recording. What Elvekjær lacks in a certain Gallic transparency he makes up for in athletic energy, with a whitewater Ondine, a clanging Gibet, a spastically tumbling Scarbo. One could lay similar charges against Elvekjær's Debussy, the second book of Images and L'Isle joyeuse, that it is not necessarily music he "gets" -- meaning not that he cannot play it (he certainly has the chops), only that it would not be my first choice for ideal listening -- unlike his Nielsen, which was utterly convincing (and more recent, after the pianist has undergone fairly extensive testing on wide-ranging concert tours). A similar formal seriousness makes the Franck selection on this disc, the Prélude, choral et fugue, so intense, dense, and well-voiced. At the Library of Congress tonight, we will hear how Elvekjær and his colleagues in Trio con Brio Copenhagen handle Mendelssohn.
Trio con Brio Copenhagen's new Mendelssohn CD will reportedly be released this month, and Mendelssohn will feature prominently in their performance tonight at the Library of Congress (February 18, 8 pm), which will include the 12-year old Mendelssohn’s Piano Quartet in B minor, op. 3, and his only Song without Words written for cello, as well as Beethoven’s "Archduke" Trio.