of Enchantement d'avril"
by Mark Lehman
American Record Guide May-June, 2004
Sowash: Enchantement d'avril (Enchantment of April)
Three trios for clarinet, cello and piano
Performed by Trio les Gavottes
Here's a new program of Rick Sowash trios to add to the delightful one I reviewed so enthusiastically in May/June 2003. (His discs are available on line from www.sowash.com or by writing the composer at 558 Liberty Hill, Cincinnati, OH, 45202.) The earlier disc included a trio for violin, clarinet and piano and a traditional piano trio. The three trios on this new release are scored for the rich, mellow, deep-ambered combination of clarinet, cello and piano.
Like all of Sowash's music these trios are directly communicative and immensely likable; warm, melodious (sometimes whimsical and dancelike, as in Trio 3's final allegretto, or based on hymns), tonal (but not simplistically triadic), crafted with old-fashioned care. Allegros have a fresh, salubrious, outdoorsy folksiness, while the beautiful slow movements have a nostalgic glow that recalls the autumnal glories of Gerald Finzi (another old-fangled romantic who loved the clarinet and wrote for it magnificently).
Yes, it's in the lovely inner lentos ... of these trios that Sowash outdoes himself, achieving serene, radiant, golden sunsets of long-spanning, perfectly-shaped melody over aching harmonic suspensions that seem to speak directly from soul to soul. One might have to return to Brahms himself to hear elegies at once so entranced and so rapturous, so sad and so sweet. The booklet describes the impulse behind the trios (each has a poetic subtitle) as a combination of seasonal associations and spiritual longing, and perhaps this depth of feeling led the composer to achieve what is certainly the most moving music he has written.
Sowash's trios are played with gorgeous tonal luster and wonderful sensitivity by the superb French musicians of Trio Les Gavottes, who obviously love them. Recorded sound -- like the music -- is clear, natural and unforced. This one's a beauty all around.