Benaud Trio

Bohemian Rhapsody

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The pairing of Bedrich Smetana's Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15, and Dvorák's Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 ("Dumky"), is a common one, for these are generally acclaimed as two of the undisputed classics of the small Romantic piano trio repertory. The inclusion of a trio arrangement of Freddie Mercury's Bohemian Rhapsody might be supposed to be an attempt to stand out from the crowd, and Australia's Benaud Trio has specialized in jazz and rock crossover material in addition to standard repertory. The good news is that they don't need this move to command attention, a move that is in any case pretty tame; shorn of its glam rock excesses in an arrangement for piano trio by Nicholas Buc, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody is hardly shocking at all; it's a pleasant mixture of classical and pop motifs of the sort that show up on any number of crossover release. Instead, it is in the Dvorák trio that the Benaud Trio excels. They present a novel but fully thought out reading in which the players expand upon the work's unusually static quality, coming from its unusual six-movement structure without strong tempo contrasts. A dumka was a Ukrainian dance of a melancholy tinge, and Dvorák presents six of these in a row, each stretched and manipulated into a larger form. The Benaud players regularize the tempo of the trio's dramatic opening gesture, reducing its introductory quality and making it seem more like the first in an alternation of states of light and shade. The entire piece takes on a charmed quality characteristic of the nature-oriented pieces of Dvorák's last years, and the lyrical intensity is sustained throughout. The Smetana trio, an impassioned work written after the death of the composer's five-year-old daughter from scarlet fever, receives all of the force that is avoided in the Dvorák, and it's equally effective. A very fine chamber release by an unheralded young group from the Antipodes.

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