Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trios: in e,
op. 90, “Dumky”;
COBRA 0025 (69:47)
On occasion, I receive a release for review that I already have in my collection, having acquired it sometime earlier on my own. The disc at hand is an example. I probably purchased it from an Internet mail-order Web site when it was first released in 2008. Such duplications end up in the used CD bins of a local record shop where
they’re soon snapped up by savvy shoppers.
I was sure that somewhere in a review of Dvo?ák’s “Dumky” Trio I had mentioned this Osiris performance in passing as one that had favorably impressed me. And indeed I had, in my
33:2 review of Harmonia Mundi’s recording with Jean-Guihen Queyras, Isabelle Faust, and Alexander Melnikov. On relistening to the Osiris, a Dutch ensemble formed in 1988, I still find myself quite taken with its reading of the piece.
Unfortunately, there are warhorses, and then there are worn horses. The “Dumky’s” popularity has resulted in such a glut of recordings—more than 50 at present count—that it makes the selling of any new one very difficult. Based on the numbers of listed entries, only the “New World” Symphony, the cello concerto, and the violin concerto surpass the “Dumky” in popularity among Dvo?ák’s works. So, even if I were to say that I particularly like the Osiris’s robust approach to the score and the way the group brings out its Czech-isms, and that the ensemble plays with great technical assurance and produces a full-bodied sound, what could I say to persuade you that you need another recording of a piece you probably already have half a dozen versions of in your collection? Right now, I’m looking at a shelf that contains “Dumkys” by the Beaux Arts—two, in fact—the Florestan, the Gryphon, the Lanier, the Meadowmount, the Osiris, the Rembrandt, and the Suk trios. I must have found something to like about all of them at one time or another, or they wouldn’t still be there.
This is the dilemma confronting serious collectors and those of us who sift and sort through countless competing versions in an attempt to come up with helpful recommendations. The Osiris’s “Dumky” currently occupies a favored status among the versions I know, but the circle of the “favored” is not an exclusive club; it can admit multiple favorites simultaneously.
The third of Dvo?ák’s four piano trios is the F Minor, op. 65. It has been called the most Brahmsian of his works, and perhaps in its tragic tone and sense of epic struggle it is. But like many of Dvo?ák’s large-scale works, it has a tendency to go on for longer than its material sustains interest. Dvo?ák did not possess the self-discipline of Brahms or the same degree of control over formal proportion and balance. The Osiris’s performance of the F-Minor Trio is every bit as well-honed as is that of its “Dumky,” but personally, I’ve yet to hear any performance of this more than 40-minute-long trio that hasn’t worn out its welcome before it was over. The fault, I fear, lies with the composer, not the players.
This is an excellent recording, and one, as already stated, that I really like. The Dutch label Cobra has done a fine job of capturing the ensemble in the very live but well-controlled acoustic of the Westvest Church in Schiedam, the Netherlands. If you do have room on your shelf, and in your heart, for one more Dvo?ák “Dumky,” I can strongly recommend this one.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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