Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trios: in B?,
No. 1; No. 2. Arpeggione Sonata.
BRIDGE 9376 (2 CDs: 138:22)
Comparisons can indeed be difficult in reviewing well-known and oft-recorded works, particularly because the reviewer and the reader may indeed be listening for different things. Such early objectivist performers as Feuermann, Heifetz, and
Toscanini did indeed prove that Schubert’s music can be played in the stricter German style and still be musically and emotionally effective, but I for one prefer the Viennese way, which generally means more relaxed tempos and an intelligent use of rubato and other tempo-relaxing effects. I asked to review this CD because I’ve long been a fan of Jaime Laredo, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician, and I am certainly not disappointed. One might describe these performances as lying somewhere between the two different schools of Schubert playing, which is not a bad thing. In fact, the first two movements of the Trio No. 1 are so much in the Viennese mold that Laredo even plays with a slightly wider vibrato and the trio as a whole with much more relaxation of tempo even within bars, which I find absolutely mesmerizing. On the other hand, the Scherzo and Rondo Allegro Vivace finale are played in somewhat stricter tempo, which is exhilarating.
The very early “Sonatensatz,” D 28, is cleverly played in a style closer to that of the late Classical period. Since this piece was possibly written under the influence of Schubert’s Italian teacher, Salieri, this is by no means a wrong interpretation. The ensemble’s lightness of touch here really makes the music dance in a fun way. When was the last time you had
listening to Schubert?
In the large, late trio No. 2 in E?, the group attacks the opening introduction and first theme with the tautness of a symphonic performance. This, too, is apropos, as so many of Schubert’s late chamber works (the Grand Duo for two pianos, the String Quintet) have a symphonic development and scope about them. The deeper one gets into the movement, however, the more relaxed the tempo becomes—not lax, mind you, but gentler and with subtle rubato. Again, this is an intelligent choice for this work. Due to all repeats being observed, both of the full-scale trios are fairly long performances, but the performers’ variance of shading as well as attack does not make the listening experience dull or repetitive. I am particularly interested in Joseph Kalichstein’s piano playing, which is consistently understated, almost undulating beneath the violin and cello, much like Franz Rupp’s playing in the old 78-rpm days. Sharon Robinson’s cello, quite strong in her duo passages with Laredo, is likewise subtle and relaxed in her solo passages. As in the B?-trio, the Andante here is a model of repose and emotional response to the music. It’s amazing, in fact, how much depth they could find in a mere 10 minutes of music; it’s practically an entire world unto itself.
The famed Arpeggione Sonata is played in a style very close to that of Rupp with Emanuel Feuermann, which is not a bad thing, though Robinson’s sense of rhythm is, to my ears, more playful and less eminently “serious.” This, too, is refreshing.
Of competing versions, the single disc of all these works except the Arpeggione Sonata played by the Wanderer Trio was highly praised by my colleague Charles Timbrell in
31:6, and the second (1986) recording of these same works (also omitting the sonata) by the Beaux Arts Trio, on Philips 660802 (spread over two CDs), also scores near the top. If you’ve always wanted to hear a recording of the Arpeggione Sonata on an actual arpeggione, this was finally released in August 2011 on Cavalli 242, played by Gerhard Darmstadt with pianist Egino Klepper. I admit not having heard this disc, which is not available at ArkivMusic or Amazon, but the review at AllMusic.com suggests that the substitution of a cello is a good thing. There seems to be a good reason why the instrument died out: It is likened to a bad viola da gamba, not only small in size but hollow and somewhat wiry in sound quality. Nevertheless, that disc exists for those who have spent their entire lives wondering what the heck an arpeggione sounded like.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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