BRAHMS Piano Trio No. 1 in B. SMETANA Piano Trio in g • Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio • BRIDGE 9362 (65:45)
Of the three musicians billing themselves as the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio, the only name I recognize is that of Mark Kaplan, a violinist widely known for his solo concertizing as well as for his many outstanding chamber music recordings with the former Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio. Based on their group photo in the accompanying booklet, Kaplan appearsRead more to be the veteran of the group. American pianist Yael Weiss looks much younger, but has already established an impressive international reputation. Upstate New York-born cellist Clancy Newman also appears quite young, but holds a master’s of music degree from Juilliard and has distinguished himself as a composer as well as an award-winning cellist.
Brahms’s B-Major Piano Trio, in its more familiar, revised form, has enjoyed many exceptionally fine recordings, but I knew from the moment Newman began to spin out the gorgeous open-hearted melody that opens the work that this performance was going to be special. And indeed it is. One can point to many recorded versions of this trio and say that they’re superbly well executed and, architecturally, masterfully wrought. But there’s something of precious rarity in the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman’s performance one doesn’t hear that often.
When we speak of an ensemble matching the tone, weight, and inflection of its reciprocal phrases, we frequently refer to it as “breathing together.” But there is something even more here that is hard to describe, and it has to do with dynamics. Say you have a crescendo written to be played at the same time by all three players. Naturally, one expects to hear the volume increase across the board. But is there a multilevel continuum in which all three musicians are increasing their output in lockstep by exactly the same decibel increments?
As I said, it’s hard to explain, but let me try to do so using a graphic visualization. Say you have three thermometers lined up side by side. As the temperature increases, you see the mercury levels rise in each of them, but do those levels rise as though all three were bound together as one, or do the levels go up in ever so slightly staggered increments, eventually reaching the same destination point? The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman’s dynamics are like the three conjoined thermometers, the tonal volume rising and falling in an analog as opposed to digital model, and it makes for a smoothness and radiance of sound that’s exquisitely expressive and compelling. This may just be the best of the best Brahms B-Major Trio performances I’ve yet to hear on disc, and the ensemble permits us to revel in its, and the music’s, glories by observing the lengthy first-movement exposition repeat.
Everything said about the Weiss-Kaplan-Newman’s Brahms applies equally to the ensemble’s Smetana, though the Czech composer’s G-Minor Piano Trio is a very different affair from the Brahms. It’s a work steeped in the grief of Smetana’s loss of his eldest daughter, Bedriska, and the music, at times, can sound somewhat disjointed and even a bit incoherent. The pairing of these two piano trios on the same disc is an unusual one, and I’m not sure they make particularly comfortable bed partners, but choice of program aside, this is absolutely one fabulous chamber music recording you cannot afford to be without. Urgently recommended.
Trio for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 15by Bedrich Smetana Performer:
Clancy Newman (Cello),
Mark Kaplan (Violin),
Yael Weiss (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1855; Czech Republic
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Excellent performance of great musicJuly 3, 2014By Robert C. (Ashfield, MA)See All My Reviews"If one had to have only one chamber piece by Brahms, this trio would be in the running. It has the profundity, depth, and tapestry like texture of his best pieces. The playing is up to the high standard this composition deserves. The Smetana, while not as much a masterpiece as the Brahms, is still fine music, well played."Report Abuse
Superb playing of Brahms and SmetanaJanuary 16, 2014By Gail M. (Goleta, CA)See All My Reviews"I found this disk to be one of the most enjoyable chamber music recordings I've ever heard. The Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio play these pieces with perfect coordination, achieving harmonic richness of tone as well as fine articulation of Brahms' rhythms. I found that the Smetana trio makes a good disk partner with the Brahms, providing some contrast in style. Smetana's trio is a fine piece of romantic chamber music, permitting it to stand next to the wonderful Brahms Op. 8. But I feel that Smetana's development is not as clear, and the depth of his themes do not quite match those of Brahms. Sound quality is excellent, making this a very fine recording of both these works!"Report Abuse