Notes and Editorial Reviews
R E V I E W S
MUSIC WEB INTERNATIONAL::
The Trio is arguably the finest achievement of Rachmaninov’s earlier career: the period before his breakdown following the disastrous premiere of the First Symphony. It was preceded by another piece of the same name and for the same instrumental combination; but in every way, in both scale and conception, the earlier work is a pale imitation of the later.
Naxos couples these two trios in a sensible combination that gives commercial value as well as artistic integrity. The performers seem ideal, and so too the recorded sound from that favourite venue for Naxos: Potton Hall in Suffolk. The Trio No. 1 is a work of sensitive emotion and admirable
intellectual command, but the music lacks the vision and with it the truly epic commitment of the Op. 9 Trio of 1893. The latter is still an early work, and it is true that Rachmaninov returned to it fourteen years later to revise it in the light of a more sophisticated technique. Be that as it may, there is a complete integrity of design and an associated command of structure, and its every bar conveys an eloquent immediacy of emotion.
Of course the performers need bring their own vision to chamber music that is built on such an ambitious scale. This Russian trio of Grohovski, Wulfson and Yablonski combine to achieve eloquence of line and intensity of expression, a performance that is founded upon techniques of the utmost assurance. Their interpretation is captured in an acoustic whose warmth serves the music well. Make no mistake; this is one of the most successful recordings of chamber music one could wish to encounter, and to have it available at budget price is a cause for celebration.
Terry Barfoot, Music Web International
Rachmaninoff wrote this Trio in 1893, when he was only 20, in a paroxysm of grief over the sudden death of Tchaikovsky, who had been one of his greatest supporters; not surprisingly, the work is patterned after Tchaikovsky’s own Trio, op. 50, “In Memory of a Great Artist” (Nicolai Rubinstein), even borrowing its subtitle as well as the theme of its theme-and-variations second movement.
Rachmaninoff revised the work in 1907 and again in 1917. This new recording offers the complete 1907 score; all the competitive versions I listened to, most notably those of the Borodin Trio on Chandos and the Moscow Rachmaninoff Trio on Hyperion, take the 1917 cuts, or most of them. All three versions are excellently played, although I find the Moscow group much too fast at the opening; likewise, the return of the opening theme at the end of the third movement again sounds rushed in their reading, undermining the rhetorical effect of the recurrence. Moreover, of the three recordings, the new Naxos version is the most attractively played and recorded; the sound is warm yet immediate and lifelike, with excellent balances, and the many passages for the cello’s A-string—almost the entire part is notated in tenor clef—are particularly lovely. (Cellist Yablonsky is, incidentally, the son of well-known pianist Oxana Yablonskaya.)
All three recordings are coupled with the single-movement Trio No. 1, written a year earlier and also titled “Elegiac,” even though it apparently was written without a specific subject in mind. Rachmaninoff completists will be interested in the Hyperion disc for its inclusion of two additional chamber rarities, the Two Pieces for Cello and Piano, op. 2 (also available as a filler for the sumptuous Decca recording of the Cello Sonata by Lynn Harrell and Vladimir Ashkenazy), and the even more uncommon Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, op. 6, for which I can trace only a single other version, on an Apex disc primarily of music of Sergei Bortkiewicz played by Nils Franke and Christian Persinaru. If the Trios are the principal concern, however, this new Naxos disc rises straight to the top of the list.
-- Richard A. Kaplan, Fanfare
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