The theme for this album could be conservancy of material, economy of gesture, and succinctness of harmony. The CD opens with Fauré's Op. 120 Trio, one of the last pieces he completed before his death, which is heard here in its rarely performed version for piano, clarinet, and cello (it is heard much more frequently with violin in place of clarinet). As Fauré was so loathe of dense textures, the trio is very lean, with all three parts extremely exposed throughout. The middle work of the album -- and by far the most successful -- is Alban Berg's Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano. Wrapping things up is Beethoven's Op. 38 Piano Trio (also heard here in its version with clarinet instead of violin), which the composer himself arranged from a reduction of his Op. 20 Septet. Streamlining a piece from seven instruments to three is yet another example of music in its most distilled form. Despite the cleverness in programming, the performances themselves fail to deliver on what could have been a very enjoyable album. Clarinetist Eduard Brunner and pianist Vassili Lobanov produce the only convincing performance on the CD with their crisp, articulate, and lucid interpretation of the set of Berg pieces. With the addition of cellist Boris Pergamenschikow for the Fauré and Beethoven, these qualities from the Berg quickly vanish. Sound quality throughout the Beethoven and Fauré is muddy and completely dominated by the piano's left hand. Intonation between the cello and clarinet is strained at best and uncomfortable at its worst. The thin scoring only exemplifies these issues, making mismatches in intonation, tone, and articulation all the more obvious.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120|
|Pieces (4) for clarinet and piano, Op. 5|
|Trio for piano, clarinet (or violin) & cello in E flat major (arr. of septet, Op. 20), Op. 38|