The opening of French composer Charles Kœchlin’s Sonata for Piano and Viola aches with sadness. Like a lament. It is a fitting tribute to violist Roger Benedict’s father, who died while the CD was being recorded. But life goes on, and the work picks up speed in the scherzo, then returns to pensive mode in the andante, a serene soliloquy over piano chords. The fourth movement brings the spirit of the preceding three into a mood of tranquil resignation that leaves you wanting more from this composer who developed an individual musical style during his life that straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. And more there is on Tracks 5 to 8, Four Little Pieces for piano, viola plus horn, supplied by young Australian musician Ben Jacks. The horn’s mellifluous sonority blends smoothly with the sound colours of Benedict’s Carlo Antonio Testore viola, adding a soft luminous glow to the four pieces, two composed in 1906, one in 1896, another in 1903.
They are well integrated in this trio performance that ends with a jaunty scherzando. Kœchlin’s near contemporary Joseph Jongen provides the final four tracks, pieces for piano and viola written between 1900 and 1940 that form an easy, kaleidoscopic unity from varied material, with Timothy Young’s piano playing perfectly balanced to shape a superb musical concordance. So well combined and engineered is the recording that a form that might have presented as an exacting academic exercise becomes music flowing with feelings and insightful responses.