Beethoven Trio Bonn

Piano Trios No. 1: Arensky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Kapustin

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The piano trio isn't a common genre in Russian music, and this album doesn't even include the most famous one, Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50. In fact, that work might have made a good conclusion to the program here, which is mostly devoted to the distinctly Russian tradition of so-called epitaph trios or works somehow connected with them. Tchaikovsky's trio was one of those, whereas the actual conclusion here, the breezy Divertissement for piano trio, Op. 126 (2005), was not, and its jazzy neo-classic style, though enjoyable enough on its own, seems connected only by nationality to the rest of the music. This said, the rest of the program is fresh stuff, tending toward a Western rather than Russian idiom, and very idiomatically performed by the Beethoven Trio Bonn. The Rachmaninov and Shostakovich trios are delightfully passionate student works, written when their respective composers were each 17; the Shostakovich piece is as purely Romantic in spirit as anything he ever wrote. The little-known Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 32, of Anton Arensky, is a pure example of the epitaph trio (a concept outlined in the booklet); it was written in memory of a deceased cellist, and the cello falls silent at the beginning of the first movement, only to burst forth in song with the second subject. The work was quite popular in its own time and is well worth the revival it receives here on an album of offbeat selections that will appeal to serious fans of Russian music.

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