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Suk, Dvorak, Smetana: Piano Trios / Feininger Trio

Release Date: 01/14/2014 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553293   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Josef SukAntonín DvorákBedrich Smetana
Performer:  Christoph StreuliAdrian OetikerDavid Riniker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Feininger Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SUK Piano Trio in c. DVORÁK Piano Trio No. 2 in g, op. 26. SMETANA Piano Trio in g, op. 15 Feininger Tr CAVI 8553293 (75:38)

This wonderful performance of three Czech trios is the debut recording by three Swiss-born musicians who are current members of the Berlin Philharmonic. It’s dedicated to the memory of the great Read more violinist Josef Suk (1929–2011), the grandson of the composer whose early trio opens the program. Maybe it’s my imagination, but right from the start, I sense some of the sweetness and vitality of Suk (the violinist’s) musical personality, not only in the tone of Christoph Streuli’s violin, but in the Feiningers’ sound and sensitive, forthright interpretive approach.

Even in his early music, which is much less adventurous than it was to become, Josef Suk (the grandfather) was a composer of distinction. His 1899 Trio is an appealing work of modest dimensions whose inadvertently Latin-sounding slow movement the Feininger Trio plays with an affectionate lilt. I hear the influence of the finale of Brahms’s C-Minor Trio in the rhythms and main motive of the Suk’s finale.

Each of Dvorák’s four piano trios improves on the quality of the previous one. The Third and Fourth are, of course, among Dvorák’s great works. As someone for whom Dvorák can do little wrong, I love the not-so-often-played Second Trio, but can see how its leisurely first movement could be criticized for an occasional lack of strong musical argument. The rest of the piece has no such faults, with the third movement scherzo being a particular gem. The Feininger Trio provides a sympathetic reading of the entire piece, with energy, beauty of tone, and the flexible response to its folk-like material that the music requires.

I hear more defiant rage than mourning in Smetana’s Trio, an early work composed in reaction to his daughter’s death, and the best-known of the disc’s offerings. The Feininger Trio communicates more urgency in its playing than the Florestan Trio, whose 2010 recording I found superficial, though it is more blended and refined than the Beaux Arts Trio in an older, very gutsy reading. It’s a work whose solo passages allow the three players to assert their individual personalities, and I have always wondered how a powerhouse group of virtuosos like Heifetz, Rubinstein, and Piatigorsky might have played it, or Maisky, Kremer, and Argerich. That these performers didn’t record Smetana’s Trio may be because not everyone considers it a masterpiece. For some, its flamboyance crosses the line into bombast or vulgarity. I find its music eloquent and inspired. For example, the first movement’s brief second theme, played at first by the cello, I find more touching than any melody that precedes it on this disc in the Suk or Dvorák trios. Each movement of the work is full of similarly potent gestures and melodies that cover a huge emotional range.

The recordings of each of these pieces made by the Suk Trio in the 1960s are reference versions, but I highly recommend the Feininger’s debut recording. Cavi’s clear recorded sound showcases the beautiful tone of the two string players, and the group’s impeccable balances. The interpretations are caring and compelling.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings in C minor, Op. 2 by Josef Suk
Performer:  Christoph Streuli (Violin), Adrian Oetiker (Piano), David Riniker (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Feininger Trio
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1889/1891; Prague, Czech Republ 
Trio for Piano and Strings no 2 in G minor, Op. 26/B 56 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Christoph Streuli (Violin), Adrian Oetiker (Piano), David Riniker (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Feininger Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Bohemia 
Trio for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 15 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Christoph Streuli (Violin), Adrian Oetiker (Piano), David Riniker (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Feininger Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Czech Republic 

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