Here's a piece you don't often hear performed in concert: Mozart's Divertimento in B flat major, K. 254 (aka, his Piano Trio No. 1). While the other five works in the same form are performed frequently by virtue of their later date of composition, the early Trio No. 1 is not only rarely performed in concert, it's usually recorded only in context of all the other trios. And so it is here: Trio No. 1 leads off this 2007 Hyperion disc by England's Florestan Trio, and, naturally, it is followed by two later trios – No. 2 in G major, K. 496, and No. 5 in C major, K. 548.
This CD introduces to disc the newly formed Florestan Trio comprising Susan Tomes, Anthony Marwood and Richard Lester, all now-familiar and highly respected artists after their many earlier recordings, both as members of other ensembles and as soloists. Miss Tomes and Mr Lester were, of course, members of the now-disbanded piano quartet Domus (which was joined by Mr Marwood in its last, award-winning recording of the two Fauré Piano Quintets on CDA66766).
The quality of the recorded sound is so perfectly clear on this recording, like finely etched crystal, while at the same time it is so robust and resonant, that it is difficult to believe that the piano played on these two marvelous CDs is a replica of a 1785 Walter fortepiano, a smaller and much more fragile instrument than today's modern concert grand pianos.
New Chamber Music by Louise Farrenc
Following the release of her symphonies, our ambitious Louis Farrenc Edition continues with more chamber music by this French composer. Shortly after her first symphony (1841) she composed her first piano trio and performed it herself as the pianist together with two fellow musicians in Paris.
If these performances of Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios by Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Lynn Harrell are suave and sophisticated with a soupçon of sentimentality, well, that's what modern performance practice was like in the '80s. And if that sounds like an appealing manner in which to perform Beethoven's earlier Piano Trios, this is the recording to hear. Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell lean into Beethoven's music, singing everything grandly, sounding everything gloriously, and souping everything up completely. One might argue that Beethoven's Piano Trios, Op. 1, are too Viennese High Classical to respond well to their approach, that the works seem more maimed and mauled then persuasively performed, but one cannot deny that Perlman, Ashkenazy, and Harrell put every iota of their expressivity and virtuosity into their overpowering performances. EMI's early digital sound has been pleasantly remastered for this CD reissue.
Brahms (1833-97) devoted much of the 1880s to his three Piano Trios, having decided, as he told a friend, that there was “no further point in attempting an opera or a marriage”. They are among his less familiar chamber works. He originally wrote No 1 as a young man, overhauling it more than three decades later in 1889. All three works – the B major Op 8, C major Op 87 and C minor Op 101 – have a tender, shadowy intensity, without quite the same heart-on-sleeve fervour of the bigger chamber works. The string players here – brother and sister Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff – are regular quartet partners. Together with sensitive pianism from Lars Vogt, ensemble is alert, accurate, never forced: already a favourite CD.