GMCD 7392 – Piano Trios by Mendelssohn & Cotter Nixon
London Piano Trio: Robert Atchison (violin), Olga Dudnik (piano), David Jones (cello)
American Record Guide – September/October 2013
The Mendelssohn is decent, but you will not buy this for the Mendelssohn. You probably have more than one recording of it already— and it has done well on records. You would buy this for the Nixon.
Nixon? Yes: Henry Cotter Nixon, 1842-1907. He was very impressed by the music of Spohr and Mendelssohn. He lived with his sister, a pianist, and her husband, a cellist. Henry himself played organ primarily, but he also played viola in a string octet. (Mendelssohn’s Octet was one of his favorite pieces.) He also had a career as a concert pianist in London, along with church organist jobs all his life. He taught violin and piano and singing.
His first piano trio won first prize at the Trinity College Chamber Music Competition in 1879. I am sure that if you like Mendelssohn’s trio you will like Nixon’s longer one (48 minutes). It certainly sounds derivative, as if Mendelssohn wrote another one after his two. That suits me just fine. See what you think
expeditionaudio.com – June 2013
This Guild CD of romantic piano trios performed by the esteemed London Piano Trio is not appearing here on Expedition Audio for the fine recording of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1. While there is no shortage of splendid versions of this work available, there are no available versions of the companion piece at all, the Trio No. 1 in C major for violin, cello and piano by Henry Cotter Nixon. In fact, this music of Nixon appears to be all that is available of his, while still modest, relatively significant output. Nixon’s trio sounds worthy to occupy space on the disc alongside the Mendelssohn.
Henry Cotter Nixon (1842-1907) was born in Southwark England to a musical but rather needy family. His father was an organist who, while he held various church posts, could never quite escape his chronic financial anxieties. After his father passed, the money needed to provide the younger Nixon with a music education was provided by a benefactor. Music became his life, and after long occupying himself as an avid amateur musician, Nixon enjoyed a successful career as an organist and later, a concert pianist, gaining recognition along the way for his compositions.
The sample of this CD provided for you to hear is the sunny and very pretty opening movement of Nixon’s piano trio. A full generation younger than Mendelssohn, Nixon was very familiar with that composer’s music, as well as that of Spohr, Beethoven, Hummel and Weber, and you can easily hear these influences on his music. Perhaps Guild will record more of the Nixon’s chamber music, such as his other piano trio, the wind quintet, the string quartet, or the cello sonata. On this basis of this first Nixon venture, I expect there would likely be an eager audience.
International Record Review – February 2013
The aching cello melody that opens Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor has helped make it one of the cornerstones of the repertoire; surely, no one can hear this without surrendering to what unfolds from it. The composer completed the Trio in 1839 and took advice from Ferdinand Hiller on revising the piano part It’s a pretty arduous workout for the instrument, countered by the lyrical intensity of the violin and cello parts. The players of the London Piano Trio take their lead from the initially broad material passed from cello to violin, adding a pleasing weight to it, but, in the process, lose sight of the composer’s movement heading – Molto allegro et agitato. The subsequent lack of impetus continues into the Andante, though the first entry of cello and violin is played with wonderful lightness. The Scherzo moves well, the finale finds the agitation absent from the first movement and the ensemble’s playing is good (though there’s more tonal lustre to Olga Dudnik’s cello than Robert Atchison’s violin). For energy and scintillating virtuosity, though, I’d head for Julia Fischer, Daniel Müller-Schott and Jonathan Gilad on their 2006 Pentatone recording.
Like many Victorians, Henry Cotter Nixon was an ardent admirer of Mendelssohn; the German composer’s dazzling, precocious Octet was a favourite. Yet Nixon’s Piano Trio of 1879 sounds like the product of a diet of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms with little hint of the English music revival fermenting at the time. Cotter Nixon’s biography gives the impression that, even in his own time, he was a marginal figure, better known as an organist than as a composer. His oeuvre was reasonably varied, encompassing orchestral, chamber and stage works, but he struggled to generate much interest in them and died in obscurity in 1907, some years after losing his wife and son.
It would be heartening to report that Cotter Nixon’s talents have been unjustly neglected; but, on the evidence of this Piano Trio (the first of two), they haven’t. It’s genial, competent music, but flashes of originality are few and, given the work’s inordinate duration, very far between. Pre-dating Tchaikovsky’s great Trio by two years, at 48 minutes the piece just exceeds it in length. Yet where Tchaikovsky’s works wonders with an unconventional form, Cotter
Nixon’s only expands a very conventional one to a scale that vastly outweighs the quality of its material. The London Piano Trio’s performance is good enough to allow a fair appraisal of the work, but no more. Recorded sound is mostly clear, albeit with a slightly over-prominent view of the piano, and the copious notes include that rarest of things – the musical example. Andrew Morris
Rainlore’s World of Music – December 2012
The illustrious London Piano Trio’s Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1, Cotter Nixon Piano Trio No. 1 was released on Guild Music on 15th November. This recording spans two of the most beautiful works in the repertoire. The Mendelssohn justly remains one of the most popular and most often performed and recorded trios, while the Cotter Nixon is a far too long overdue premier recording of this exquisite trio and hopefully might help further dispel the alas all too widespread popular myth that there somehow is a void between Handel and Elgar of any British music of worth. It is a shame that a country with such a rich cultural heritage as Britain should often have so little regard for many of its own artists, whether composers, musicians, painters or whatever. It is nothing less than a national tragedy.
The Cotter Nixon is every jot the Mendelssohn’s equal, yet it has taken more than a century since the composer’s death for it to be recorded. Kudos to the London Piano Trio, and Guild Music, for at last taking this step. Had Cotter Nixon been, say, German, no doubt we should have seen dozens of recordings already.
Comprising Robert Atchison, violin, Olga Dudnik, piano, and David Jones, cello, the London Piano Trio are without doubt the finest trio it has been my pleasure to ever encounter, and indeed, they are to the trio as the Lindsay were to the string quartet. Perfection, passion, deepest sensitivity and musicality, supreme artistry, empathy that borders on telepathy. The tremendous atmosphere and spirit of their live performance are well captured in this glorious recording.
Both the generally slightly more introvert Mendelssohn and the more extrovert, often exuberant Cotter Nixon are performed with equal deep passion and virtuosic brilliance, informed by the London Piano Trio’s deep understanding of the music and their very evident deep love for it. Finer performances and interpretations of either work it would be very hard to imagine.
Although Cotter Nixon was of course influenced by the Germanic school of Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann, which is clearly discernible here, pay particular attention to the Andante’s opening melody, a delightful specifically English touch here in that it is a wonderful example of a Victorian Anglican hymn.
This recording became an instant favourite here when I first heard it a number of weeks ago, and it will remain so. It is one of my musical refuges from the madness and frenzy of modern life. Make it one of yours, too – this album is just exquisite.
The London Piano Trio’s Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1, Cotter Nixon Piano Trio No. 1 is an absolute must have for any trio connoisseur, as indeed for any chamber music lover. I cannot recommend this album highly enough, to the general classical music aficionado as to anybody.
© 2012 Rainlore’s World of Music/Rainlore