CD review: string trios by Milhaud & Martinu

First published in the Guardian on 20 July, 2017

Milhaud/Martinu: Complete String Trios
Jacques Thibaud String Trio (Audite)

“Chamber music is a genre with which one can express one’s deepest feelings,” said Darius Milhaud, and just listen to the tough, haltering chorales of the Modere from his 1947 String Trio to hear what he means. There are good reasons to pair the music of the Provencal Milhaud and his Moravian-Bohemian contemporary Bohuslav Martinu. Both gravitated to jazz-crazed Paris after the First World War but neither forgot the special rhythms and songfulness of folk music from home. Both headed for the USA in the 1940s (Milhaud as a Jew, Martinů as an exiled Czech) and both wrote for small ensembles with nimble intimacy. This recording from the Jacques Thibaud String Trio gives everything an essential quality. It’s a sound perfect for French music, stripped-back and quicksilver, but I also love their fearless way with Martinu’s jagged edges.