Borodin Trio

Great Russian Piano Trios [Box Set]

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Great Russian Piano Trios [Box Set] Review

by James Leonard

This four-disc set of Russian piano trios covers a lot of ground, from the very familiar, such as Shostakovich's great E minor Trio, to the less well traveled, like Alyabiev's sentimental A minor work. It makes for an interesting survey of Silver Age Russian chamber music, but many of the works collected here have had much better performances, and the quality of the material is erratic. The stronger performances, particularly the Tchaikovsky, Taneyev, and Rachmaninov, are those by the Borodin Trio, which plays with the kind of big-toned, openly emotional style that perfectly suits music from the period; it also makes as convincing a case for the weaker compositions, like Rachmaninov's slightly weepy G minor Trio, as it does for the consensus "greats," like Tchaikovsky's melancholy A minor work. By contrast, violinist Christiaan Bor and cellist Nathaniel Rosen -- teaming with pianist Jerome Lowenthal in the Arensky and Edward Auer in the Shostakovich -- turn in sprawling, disjointed, and scrappily histrionic readings that can't compete with stronger performances in the discography. The warmly reverberant digital sound is a selling point, but know that the musical content is less than consistent.

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