Player Violinist Anna Marie Williams is a founding member of the critically acclaimed Neave Trio, a Chandos recording artist, and faculty member at the Longy School of Music at Bard College.
Title of Work Being Studied Piano Trio in E-flat major, Op. 2
Composer Albert Roussel
Date Composed 1927
Name of Edition Studied The first edition of the 1927 version. It was originally published in 1907, but revised in 1927 by Roussel himself and published by Rouart, Lerolle & Cie.
Where to begin? The way Roussel creates atmosphere with harmonic colors and textures is truly magical. His melodies are just to die for, too. They can be so heartbreakingly sincere and moving or full of lightness and joy! The range in colors, character, and emotions that he manages to convey is amazing. I initially began studying this trio to prepare for the Neave Trio’s French Moments album (Chandos Records), which also includes trios by Fauré and Debussy. I hadn’t studied it before, but I’m so glad to know it now! Discovering this work felt like finding hidden treasure.
My trio and I were intrigued by the fact that this work seemed relatively unknown. The opportunity to both perform and record it is a great honor and privilege. I’m constantly amazed at the variety that Roussel allows, with each of our performances hopefully delving a little bit deeper into his musical world. I think that’s always the way you want to feel when learning a great piece—like the work is never done!
“I’m constantly amazed at the variety that Roussel allows, with each of our performances hopefully delving a little bit deeper into his musical world.”
In this piece, Roussel provides a lot of instructions, or “clues,” in notation, articulation, character, and especially tempo markings. My advice would be to treat all the “clues” with the spirit of exploration and with the understanding that they all can lead you closer to discovering the intent of the composer. I think the challenge is I’m always trying to dig a little deeper to find the composer’s intent, which of course, we can never truly know! We can only ever give our most educated and intuitive guess. The reward is when those exact challenges lead you toward something that feels musically authentic.
This was really the only edition we could find. We found a few accidentals missing, (which led to some interesting, crunchy harmonies in rehearsal!) but since it is a first edition edited by the composer, it is very authentic. The attention to detail and nuance that Roussel encourages in his writing applies to everything on my music stand. It is a great reminder never to take those details for granted!
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Strings magazine.