Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trios: No. 1 in Bb; No. 2 in g; No. 3 in F; No. 4 in E,
Tr di Parma
CONCERTO 2078 (2 CDs: 138:39)
Elsewhere in this issue, you’re apt to read my review of Volume 2 of the Gould Piano Trio’s ongoing cycle of the Beethoven piano trios, and it’s not pretty. In 33:2, I also expressed some reservations about the ensemble’s three-disc set of the Brahms trios, but they weren’t as serious as the problems besetting the Beethoven. Exactly one year ago, however, in
36:2, I reviewed the Gould’s two-CD set of Dvorák’s four piano trios on Champs Hill, and deemed it worthy of the highest possible recommendation.
So here come the Italians to challenge the English on Czech turf. Formed in 1990 at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma, the Trio di Parma—Ivan Rabaglia, violin; Enrico Bronzi, cello; and Alberto Miodini, piano—has since distinguished itself as a leading ensemble on the international stage, and has recorded for various labels the piano trios of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Ravel, and Shostakovich. With this addition of the Dvorák trios to its discography, the Parma is closing in on covering most of the familiar 19th- and early 20th-century piano trio repertoire, with the Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky trios left to go.
Choosing between the Gould and Parma Trios is a bit difficult. The Gould ensemble’s recordings were made in the concert hall at Champs Hills, an acoustic marvel when it comes to chamber music, and the engineers captured the players in sound that’s more open and vibrant than the sound afforded the Parma, which is a bit flat or two-dimensional.
On the other hand, the Parma’s performances are more idiomatic, savoring the flavors of Dvorák’s Czech folk-like melodies and peasant dance rhythms. Take, for example, the Czech-snap figure in the first movement of the Bb-Major Trio, heard for the first time in the piano beginning in bar 75, and thereafter coming to dominate the movement almost like an ostinato. The Italians give it an extra-playful locker-room towel snap that their somewhat more staid English counterparts miss.
When it comes to the “Dumky” Trio, I can’t say the Parma’s version is the best I’ve ever heard—I don’t know if I could say that about any version because there are just too many of them, though I really liked the Osiris Trio’s reading, reviewed in 33:6—but this fine Italian ensemble can certainly hold its own among top contenders.
As indicated above, Concerto’s sound is a bit on the dullish side, not constricted in dynamics or restricted in range, but sort of lacking in space. Nevertheless, the excellence of the performances more than compensate for the slight dryness of the recordings. This is one of those releases that deserves a strong recommendation, but doesn’t require special pleading if you already have one or more versions of Dvorák’s piano trios that satisfy you.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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