It seems inexplicable that Dvorák's Op. 21 and Op. 26 trios are so neglected. They are fully mature works of the late 1870s, not student pieces in the manner of Brahms or Wagner. When they're given a full-blooded performance like the one here, they are every bit as compelling as the chamber works of Dvorák's golden years at the end of the 19th century. Consider and sample the very beginning of the Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 21, which embodies a rather sharp, humorous representation of how Dvorák must have struggled to get beyond the rather overwhelming influence of Brahms. The music begins with a pure Dvorák melody: pentatonic and a bit languid. Then it is abruptly interrupted by big chords that demand a Brahmsian unpacking. There are a few other recordings of this trio, but the Busch Trio, youthful themselves, get the creative energy of this movement. The rest of the trio shows Dvorák mastering a variety of distinctly Czech devices, including a polka (the word is Czech, not Polish) in the Allegretto scherzando third movement. The Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26, was written after the death of Dvorák's infant daughter, and as annotator Jan Smaczny points out, the composer would have been aware of the origins of Smetana's trio, written in the same key under similar circumstances. However, it is characteristic of Dvorák that he went in an entirely different direction, creating a big Beethovenian work that can stand up to anything else in the repertory from this period. The Alpha label contributes excellent chamber music sound from the Queen Elisabeth Chapel in Belgium to what will be seen as a major chamber music release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Trio No. 1 in B-Flat Major, Op. 21|
|Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 26|