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Kissine, Tchaikovsky: Piano Trios / Kremer, Dirvanauskaite, Buniatshvili

Release Date: 06/07/2011 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001557202  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich TchaikovskyVictor Kissine
Performer:  Giedre DirvanauskaiteGidon KremerKhatia Buniatishvili
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Trio in a. KISSINE Zerkalo Gidon Kremer (vn); Giedr? Dirvanauskait? (vc); Khatia Buniatishvili (pn) ECM B0015572-02 (71:19)

This is a typical program for Gidon Kremer, known equally as a superb if iconoclastic violinist in standard repertoire and as a tireless advocate of new music. Tchaikovsky’s well-known Trio, dedicated “To the Memory of a Great Artist” and written as a tribute to his friend the pianist Nikolai Rubinstein, Read more is coupled here with a work by the Russian composer Victor Kissine (b.1953) written in 2009 for the musicians who perform it here.

This recording of the Tchaikovsky goes straight to the top of the list. Kremer plays with a gorgeous, silken sound in expressive passages and with great intensity in the more vehement ones. His young colleagues match him phrase for phrase, pianist Khatia Buniatishvili in particular showing the ability to handle the huge contrasts between Tchaikovsky’s most delicate textures—as, for example, in the second movement’s variation 5, which imitates a music box—and his full, orchestral ones. This is not only a powerful performance but also a nuanced one; these performers not only convey the colossal scale of Tchaikovsky’s score, they simply find more music in the piece than most. Buniatishvili’s phrasing of the second-movement theme is a typical example, beautifully yet subtly inflected and artfully voiced.

Despite the sometimes over-the-top nature of the music and Kremer’s own reputation as something of a “bad boy,” there is no self-indulgence in this performance. A couple of variations—numbers 3 and 5—are taken at unusually fast tempos, and Buniatishvili takes some rhythmic liberties with the variation 10 Mazurka, but these are well within the bounds of good taste. This may remain a problematic work for many, but it receives here the most compelling performance I’ve heard on disc, easily outclassing even the Gould Trio version I reviewed in Fanfare 34:4, and sounding far better than the great old EMI version by Perlman, Harrell, and Ashkenazy. The recording is splendid, with realistic balances that occasionally favor the piano in loud passages; in soft ones you can hear everything.

Kissine’s trio, Zerkalo (Mirror), is supposed to be based on two lines from a poem by Anna Akhmatova:

The mirror dreams only of the mirror,

Silence watches over silence …

Not being an authority on recent music, I’ll have to take the composer at his word; I hear 20 minutes of mostly quiet bell sounds, long pedal points, and string harmonics along with the occasional dissonant outburst in the piano or scrabbly lick in the strings. One must presume that, as the dedicatees of the work, Kremer and his colleagues render it faithfully. The notes mention that some years ago Kissine wrote some 22 film scores under the nom de plûme Viktor Kisin, which seems unlikely to have fooled anyone. They also report that he has orchestrated Schubert’s G-Major String Quartet and Beethoven’s op. 127, two projects that would seem hardly to have needed doing.

New-music mavens may want to check out the Kissine; reactionaries such as the undersigned will happily keep this disc and play it beginning with track 2.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings in A minor, Op. 50 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Giedre Dirvanauskaite (Cello), Gidon Kremer (Violin), Khatia Buniatishvili (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881-1882; Russia 
Zerkalo by Victor Kissine
Performer:  Giedre Dirvanauskaite (Cello), Gidon Kremer (Violin), Khatia Buniatishvili (Piano)
Written: 2009 

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