Notes and Editorial Reviews
Irresistible youthful spontaneity and warmth with an exceptionally liquid continuity concealing all constructional seams of the music.
Though the Beaux Arts Trio bravely included the Piano Trio in A, Op. posth. in their Philips set of the complete Brahms trios (reissued on CD in January 1988), the work's doubtful authenticity seems—until now—to have kept everyone else at bay. So the Fontenay Trio's act of rescue is welcome. Eventually published in 1938, this music was discovered only in 1924, not, alas, in Brahms's own hand, merely that of some unidentified copyist. But letters between Brahms and his great champion, Schumann, in 1853 prove beyond doubt that Brahms had written a couple of trios by then, both of which he
himself, as one of the most self-critical young composers ever known, decided not to include in the batch of early works he submitted, on Schumann's recommendation, to the publishers, Breitkopf & Hartel. Could the A major work given us here be one of those rejects? For my own part, I'm happy enough to believe that it is—if only on the strength of its richly glowing opening melody and the Hungarian-type brio of the main theme of the finale. The Fontenay not only play with immense youthful ardour but also give the work a stylishly Brahmsian strength and breadth (not for nothing did their earlier recordings of Brahms's first two 'official' piano trios in B and C win warm praise from AS in 2/90 and 4/90) as if in confirmation of their own belief in its authorship.
Whereas their couplings on those two earlier discs (especially Charles Ives on the second) were unexpected, their choice here is self-explanatory. To Schumann's First Piano Trio, too, they bring irresistible youthful spontaneity and warmth while at the same time rarely disappointing in finesse or subtlety of balance (but does the pianist occasionally enjoy himself just a little too much in the exhilaration of the finale?). Their response to the fastish metronome markings printed in the Eulenburg score is keen enough to give each movement an exceptionally liquid continuity concealing all constructional seams. So perhaps it's ungenerous of me to add that I myself wish they'd allowed themselves just a little more time to convey the eeriness of the sul ponticello episode in the first movement's development section (track 5 from about 5'15'') marked Tempo I, nur ruhiger, and similarly, to bring home the mit inniger Empfindung that qualifies the third movement's Langsam. This slow movement struck me as just a shade too overtly romantic. But don't be put off by such trifling reservations. All in all it's a splendid disc, most truthfully and persuasively recorded.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [3/1992]
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