Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence



Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0658
Release Date: 2022-10-21
Number of Discs: 1
EAN/UPC: 748871065826
Composers: , , , ,
Period: ,
Liner Notes

SOMM Recordings is thrilled to announce Dance!, the debut recording by the Minerva Piano Trio, featuring seminal pieces by Stravinsky and Ravel alongside new works by two British composers, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Richard Birchall, and Pulitzer Prize-winning American, Caroline Shaw.

Formed in 2013 and acclaimed for their “immaculate technique… high degree of maturity, concentration, commitment and energy” by Classical Source, the Minerva Piano Trio – pianist Annie Yim, violinist Michał Ćwiżewicz, and cellist Richard Birchall – has earned glowing plaudits from audiences and critics alike, Arcana FM marking them as “an ensemble which is clearly going places”, Classical Source declaring “how lucky modern-day composers are to have such expert and sympathetic advocates”, The Times praising them for “the most beautiful sounds”.

Dance! features two ballet pieces by Stravinsky and Ravel, the former’s Pulcinella Suite arranged by the Minerva’s Richard Birchall, the latter’s Daphnis et Chloé heard in David Knott’s arrangement of three scenes that, says the Trio’s Annie Yim, illustrate “the discovery of love: innocence, awakening, touch, and passion”. Both arrangements are receiving first recordings.

Also making their debuts on disc are Birchall’s own Contours, described by Caroline Potter in her informative booklet notes as exploring “the notion and elastic meaning of its title in different ways”, and, in Annie Yim’s arrangement, Caroline Shaw’s Gustave Le Gray. Rooted in a Chopin Mazurka, it eloquently mimics its artist namesake’s facility for poetically layered voices and images.

Completing the recital is Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s My Fleeting Angel. Inspired by a short story about the dour, deadening domesticity of married life by the poet Sylvia Plath, Potter likens both composer and piece to Olivier Messiaen, hailing the work’s “logic and appealing sound world of its own” and Frances-Hoad as “a sound-colour synaesthete who associates specific colours with sounds”.

On This Recording

    Igor Stravinsky (arr. Richard Birchall)*

  1. Pulcinella Suite: I. Overture
  2. Pulcinella Suite: II. Serenata
  3. Pulcinella Suite: III. Allegro assai
  4. Pulcinella Suite: IV. Andante
  5. Pulcinella Suite: V. Presto
  6. Pulcinella Suite: VI. Fuga
  7. Pulcinella Suite: VII. Gavotta con due variazioni
  8. Pulcinella Suite: VIII. Minuetto e Finale
  9. Richard Birchall*

  10. Contours: I. Moderate
  11. Contours: II. Fast
  12. Contours: III. Nocturne - Adagio
  13. Contours: IV. Fast Waltz
  14. Caroline Shaw (arr. Annie Yim)*

  15. Gustave Le Gray
  16. Cheryl Frances-Hoad

  17. My Fleeting Angel: I. Larghetto
  18. My Fleeting Angel: II. Allegro spiritoso e scherzando
  19. My Fleeting Angel: III. Allegretto eleganza
  20. Maurice Ravel (arr. David Knotts)*

  21. Scenes from Daphnis et Chloe: I. Nocturne
  22. Scenes from Daphnis et Chloe: II. Pantomime
  23. Scenes from Daphnis et Chloe: III. Danse Guerriere

* First Recordings


“This is a hugely rewarding disc of works inspired by the dance.  Two masterworks from the early 20th century, here in fascinating arrangements, bookend three contemporary works. Richard Birchall the cellist of the trio is also a composer, and his Contours from 2014 is a short four movement suite of highly contrasted movements, exploring the meaning of the work’s title in different contexts. …As if there are no ends to Mr. Birchall’s talent he is also a gifted arranger, and here contributes an excellent and inventive arrangement of movements from Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella. … Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw’s piano solo Gustave le Gray is presented in an arrangement by pianist Annie Yim. The piano is still prominent, but the violin and cello expertly contribute additional lines and colour. …Cheryl Frances- Hoad My Fleeting Angel is based on a short story involving suicide by Sylvia Plath. As one might expect it is suitably turbulent and troubled. Ms. Frances-Hoad packs a great deal of incident into this 9-minute roller coaster of a work. In the central movement Miss Yim’s nimble finger work at opposite extremes of the keyboard is thrilling. This is a really distinguished addition to the piano trio repertoire and it could not hope for a better performance. …The disc ends with a superb arrangement by David Knotts of three movements from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, originally for very large orchestra and chorus. It is a testament to Mr. Knotts’ skill, that if one did not know the original one would imagine this was a work for piano trio. The tension built up by the group in the war dance is positively cinematic in its scope. The Minerva Trio really are a superb group of young musicians, who in this disc perform flawlessly. Not just flawless technique but flawless musicality, each movement of each work is beautifully shaped. The recording, likewise, is of demonstration quality. I look forward hearing much more from them.” —Paul RW Jackson, British Music Society

“On their smartly curated debut release Dance!, Minerva Piano Trio members Annie Yim (piano), Michal Cwizewicz (violin), and Richard Birchall (cello) couple pieces by Stravinsky and Ravel with new works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Caroline Shaw, and Birchall himself.… Blending the familiar and the novel works strongly in the trio’s favour.… the trio plays all of the album material with conviction and sensitivity, their deep grasp of each piece’s character never in doubt. Dance! is a strong and accomplished statement and impresses all the more for being Minerva Piano Trio’s debut recording.” —Ron Schepper, Textura (A Textura Top 20 Instrumental Recording of the Year)

“This curious programme springs some pleasant surprises. The best is saved till last: David Knotts’s remarkably inventive arrangement of three episodes from Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé – ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Danse Gurrière’ (the two movements which feature in Ravel’s Suite No. 1), and the lovely ‘Pantomime’. Bringing out instrumental combinations and sonorities familiar from Ravel’s Piano Trio, Knotts translates the ‘Nocturne’ quite brilliantly: music which can seem becalmed in the ballet itself here sounds intriguing and compelling. ‘Pantomime’s famous flute solo is transformed into an effective showpiece for all three musicians of the Minerva Piano Trio…one that it improves on the original. … The opening selection of pieces from Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella, arranged by Minerva’s cellist, Richard Birchall, also has its moments: the ‘Andante’ – atmospheric and charmingly played – and the ‘Presto’ – such exuberant fun one doesn’t mind it being repeated more than in Stravinsky’s original. Birchall’s own suite, Contours, is pleasantly diverting… Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s My Fleeting Angel, a mercurial three-movement work inspired by a Sylvia Plath story. …spritied performances” —Daniel Jaffé, BBC Music ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️