Trio Fontenay

Dvorák: The Piano Trios

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Many of Dvorák's chamber genres have the tendency to have one particular piece that stands out above all the rest. For the string quartets, it is the frequently (over)played American Quartet. For the piano trios, it is certainly the E minor Trio, Op. 90, known far and wide as the "Dumky" Trio. Op. 90 is indeed a magnificent composition and a prime example of splendid trio writing. This often comes at the expense of the other three published piano trios that Dvorák completed within his lifetime. With the possible exception of the sometimes meandering B flat major Trio, all of Dvorák's trios are strong compositions in their own rights. Written only a year after the B flat major Trio, the G minor Trio shows immense growth in Dvorák's treatment of the three instruments, the depth of his melodic writing, and the overall intensity and depth of his writing. The F minor Trio, written on the heels of his mother's death, is another dark, brooding, powerful trio that is overlooked far too often. This Musical Heritage Society album features performances from the late '80s of the Trio Fontenay -- formed in 1980 and disbanded in 2006 -- of the these four trios. Trio Fontenay has the right idea when it comes to intense playing, forward-moving tempos, a broad dynamic palate, and a fluid balance between the three instruments. Technical aspects of the playing are equally strong, with only occasional slips in intonation between the strings. Recorded sound quality of the trio, however, is not exemplary in all cases. The piano's sound in the trios Opp. 21 & 65 is rather nasal and lacking in bass support. This issue is less pronounced in the Opp. 26 & 90 trios, but here the many cello solos (particularly in the Dumky Trio) are thin and insufficiently powerful.

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