Henry Charles Litolff (1818-1891) was celebrated as a first-rate pianist boasting a solid pedigree: he studied with Mendelssohn’s mentor Ignaz Moscheles, taught Hans von Bulow, and won Franz Liszt’s praise. Litolff also composed prolifically in many genres, although he survives primarily through one work, the Scherzo movement from his Fourth Concerto Symphonique Op 102 for piano and orchestra. His two piano trios, however, are worthy of revival.
The D minor trio is admittedly piano heavy, but the E flat major treats all three instruments fairly judiciously. Both works abound with exuberance and energy, especially in the opening Allegros, where melodic ideas and virtuosic flourishes run rampant. The E flat Trio’s Scherzo movement features supple interplay and a lightness of texture that evoke Mendelssohn, while the cascading runs in the Prestissimo’s rollicking finale demand the utmost agility and flexibility from performers.
While each member of the Leonore Trio (Benjamin Nabarro, violin; Gemma Rosefield, cello; Tim Horton, piano) brings a strong individual profile to their respective parts, the group’s marvelously dovetailed interplay and crackling ensemble precision leave me breathless. Collectors drawn to the chamber repertoire’s neglected corners should snap up this thoroughly enchanting, smartly annotated, and wonderfully engineered release.