Dvorák's popular Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 87, and Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81, have received numerous performances by Czech ensembles, as well as plenty of foreigners who have attained fluency in the received Czech style (or not). This fine release by Britain's Schubert Ensemble takes the step of defining a non-Czech way of playing Dvorák, with fresh and persuasive results. The players are circumspect and precise in the classic British style, but what they do is bold: they reduce the emphasis on the Czech rhythms in the music, turning them into accents rather than structural determinants.
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 two large-scale works by Dvořák and Smetana are complemented here by the one- movement Elegy, by Josef Suk, Dvořák’s student and later son-in-law. Formed in 2007, the Sitkovetsky Trio performs worldwide and has received numerous awards and critical acclaim, but is here making its début on disc, in a programme perfectly suited to the ensemble’s virtuosic and impassioned music-making.
'The masterpiece of our time in the trio genre' is how Robert Schumann described Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor when he reviewed the work upon its publication in 1840. Comparing it to the trios by Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann continued: 'a very beautiful composition, which in years to come will continue to delight our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.' And so it has the D minor trio remains one of the most popular of Mendelssohn's chamber works, uniting the composer's gift for melody with his feeling for textures and formal mastery. A few years later he penned the Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor between February and April 1845. An intensely emotional first movement is followed by a blissful Andante espressivo and a shimmering, truly Mendelsohnian Scherzo. The Finale returns to the passionate mood of the opening, but in the course of the movement hymn-like allusions appear and lend an air of sacred celebration to the movement. These two highpoints in the Romantic repertoire for piano trio are here performed by the young Sitkovetsky Trio.
The search for "the" solo instrument of the 19th century leads inevitably to the piano. It has its place in the public concert hall as well as in the private salon, and not a few composers have emerged as successful pianists. Among the composers in this program, though, only Frédéric Chopin belongs to this group, but he soon changed his field of activity from the anonymous concert hall to the more intimate salon circle. Antonìn Dvorák, on the other hand, passed the organists' examination and was at first employed as violist in an orchestra, while Tchaikovsky was much too reclusive to interpret his own works in front of an audience. Among the selected works by Dvorák, Chopin and Tchaikovsky, only the Dvorák piano concerto requires a large concert hall, while the solo pieces by Chopin and Tchaikovsky were originally at home in the salon…
The Beaux Arts Trio performs all of this music with their customary musicality and expertise - David Hurwitz
The late Mstislav Rostropovich and Seiji Ozawa deliver probably the greatest digital recording of the Dvorak concerto. For those familiar with the analog Karajan/Rostropovich recording, this digital recording finds the soloist creating a similar impression married with a more supportive Ozawa and the Boston Symphony. Karajan's creamy string sound and often overly-dramatic stylization is replaced here by Ozawa's stricter approach; his handling of the orchestra is masterful in this taught, precise reading. The legendary Boston Symphony responds resplendently and, although they may not highlight the rustic Czech idiom of this music, they certainly bring much charm, warmth, and expected musicality to the accompaniment. But enough about the orchestra - on to Rostropovich.