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Lalo, Bruch, Mendelssohn: Piano Trios

Lalo / Brunch / Mendelssohn / Petrof Piano Trio
Release Date: 07/09/2013 
Label:  Nimbus   Catalog #: 6219   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Edouard LaloFelix MendelssohnMax Bruch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Petrof Piano Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LALO Piano Trio No. 1 in c, op. 7. BRUCH Piano Trio in c, op. 5. MENDELSSOHN Piano Trio No. 1 in d , op. 49 Petrof Pn Tr NIMBUS 6219 (70:43)

The Petrof Piano Trio is a Czech group, founded in 2009, and derives its name from sponsorship by the Petrof piano firm, Read more which is also a Czech enterprise. This disc couples two early and unfamiliar works with an acknowledged masterpiece of the genre. Édouard Lalo, evidently something of a late starter, completed the first of his three piano trios in 1849, when he was already 26, notwithstanding the low opus number assigned to it. I find it generally a tuneful, colorful, thoroughly involving work, although the Romance second movement, despite its suggestions of Schubert and Mendelssohn, seems a bit insipid. The outer movements, however, are turbulent and dramatic, and the scherzo is delightfully inventive and rhythmically infectious. A recording by Trio Henry (Pierre Verany, coupled with the composer’s other two trios) is not bad, but the Petrof Trio makes a better case for the piece, with more tension, energy, urgency, and expressivity, and all-round better playing. Superior sound quality seals the deal for the Petrof players, although I do like the greater prominence given to the Trio Henry cellist. The recording by Trio Parnassus (MDG), favorably reviewed by Adrian Corleonis in 17:3, is still available, but I haven’t heard it.

Max Bruch’s C-Minor Trio, as far as I know his only work in the form, dates from 1859, the composer’s 19th year. A surprisingly accomplished and inventive work, it displays the influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn in its style but not in its unusual form. It consists of three movements and opens with an Andante cantabile rather than a fast movement. An Allegro assai follows the first movement with no pause, and the piece concludes with a Presto that is the longest of the three movements. A performance by the Yuval Trio, recorded in concert in 1984 and currently available on the Roméo label, was favorably reviewed by Jerry Dubins in 28:2 and, in an earlier incarnation, by John W. Lambert in 22:1. I concur with their positive assessments, but the Petrof rendition is equally persuasive, if somewhat different. In the opening movement, the Petrof reading is certainly more cantabile , lyrical, and expansive, and seems more consistent with the tempo marking. In the Allegro assai , the Petrof performance is once again more linear and flowing, in contrast to the rather jaunty treatment by the Yuval, and here too one notices the sweet tone and often eloquent playing of Petrof violinist Jan Schulmeister. The finale is given a wild, headlong treatment by the Yuval players, building to a furious conclusion, although they occasionally push the tempo too far for clean articulation. The Petrof reading is not as rapid but still plenty forceful and exciting. If forced to choose one of these two performances, I would probably opt for the Petrof, despite my longstanding admiration for the Yuval Trio.

In reviewing the excellent performance of Mendelssohn’s D-Minor Trio by Trio Shaham-Erez-Wallfisch (also on Nimbus) for 36:2, I commented that this ensemble’s approach “underlines the legacy of Beethoven” through its comparatively broad tempos, strong accents, and massive momentum. The Petrof Trio’s rendition is broader still in all movements except the Andante, but not much suggestive of Beethoven. The opening movement is delivered with greater flexibility, a more flowing lyricism, and a more pronounced contrast between lyrical and agitato segments. The former are drawn-out and yearning, the latter gratifyingly assertive and emphatic, enhanced by plenty of tonal weight. Abundant detail adds to the appeal of this reading. At a more flowing pace than that employed by Shaham-Erez-Wallfisch, the Andante is flexibly and expressively shaped, although some might find the violinist’s tone here at times overly sweet. Although more deliberate than in most other readings, the scherzo is suitably sprightly and cleanly articulated, and the Petrof Trio’s refusal to hurry would seem to be in line with the Allegretto tempo marking. The broadly paced finale emphasizes lyricism over agitation, but its climaxes are satisfying enough, and I once again savor the very clear articulation and abundant detail delivered by this ensemble.

With clear, natural, and well-focused sound, fine performances of two rarities, and a distinctive, persuasive one of the Mendelssohn work, this release merits a strong recommendation.

FANFARE: Daniel Morrison
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Works on This Recording

Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in C minor, Op. 7 by Edouard Lalo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Petrof Piano Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1850; France 
Venue:  Sound Studio HAMU, Prague 
Length: 21 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Trio for Piano and Strings no 1 in D minor, Op. 49 by Felix Mendelssohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Petrof Piano Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 
Venue:  Sound Studio HAMU, Prague 
Length: 29 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Trio for Piano and Strings in C minor, Op. 5 by Max Bruch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Petrof Piano Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858; Cologne, Germany 
Venue:  Sound Studio HAMU, Prague 
Length: 18 Minutes 11 Secs. 

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