Smetana Trio

Zemlinsky: Piano Trio in D minor; Rachmaninov: Trio Élégiaque No. 1; Arensky: Piano Trio No. 1

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The piano trios here by Alexander Zemlinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov, and Anton Arensky were all written within four years of each other, between 1892 and 1896. All the composers were fairly young when the works were written, although the Arensky work is a fully mature one. Thus they bear a certain family resemblance. But what's remarkable is how the personality of each composer emerges in full if you listen for it. Rachmaninov was just 19 when he wrote the Trio élégiaque in G minor in 1892, and his second work in the same genre is better known. But the broad, noble tone that is the quintessence of the adult Rachmaninov is all over this little work. And sample the first movement of the Zemlinsky Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 5. This work was originally written for clarinet trio, but Zemlinsky wrote the violin version and may even have contemplated it while composing the work. The melodies seem constantly to be reaching toward the murky chromatic world of the later Zemlinsky. Arensky is a child of Tchaikovsky and Brahms, nowhere more so than in chamber music, but in none of these three pieces is there a student-work quality, and any one of them would make an ideal opening for a chamber music concert. They get superb performances from the Czech Republic's Smetana Trio, vividly recorded at Prague's Martinek Studio in late 2018. There is an arch-Romantic quality to their playing, but nothing is overdone. Highly recommended.

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