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Trio di Parma

Dvorák: Piano Trios Nos. 1-4

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Italy has generally lacked a strong tradition of chamber music in both composition and performance, so it is a pleasant surprise to find that this recording of Dvorák's complete piano trios has a great deal to recommend it. Dvorák's first two trios, composed in the 1860s, are rarely played, while the last two are much more familiar, and the Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90 ("Dumky"), is one of the standards of the classical repertory. The Piano Trio di Parma offers strong performances in each half of the composer's output. The committed performances of the first two pieces are a major attraction here. The Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26, has connections with Smetana's trio in the same key, but the dimensions and shape are Dvorák's own. The lovely pentatonic melodies in these works are unusually memorable in these readings. There is plenty of competition for the Trio di Parma in the two late trios, but the group more than holds its own here. Sample the opening of the first Dumka (the dumka is a Czech dance that Dvorák refracts here through six different treatments), which has a false slow introduction that too many other groups take as a kind of dramatic gesture. In fact it is part of a larger rhythmic unit including the main theme of the movement, and the Trio di Parma puts the sections in their proper relation. There are many nice small touches here, and the folkish element in Dvorák's music is innovatively reined in throughout, without, of course, disappearing completely; the Brahmsian aspects of his music come to the fore. The sound, recorded in a villa in Poirino in northwestern Italy, is pedestrian, but this set can be strongly recommended to those interested in early- and middle-period Dvorák.

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