Janácek's First String Quartet, entitled "The Kreutzer Sonata," is loosely based on the dramatic action in Tolstoy's novel of the same name. While there is no specific program to the composition, Janácek's purpose was more to capture the intense emotion and sentiment. Wildly demanding technically and notoriously difficult to play in tune, performances of "The Kreutzer Sonata" are reserved for the most seasoned and accomplished ensembles. This E1 Music album features a transcription of this great quartet for piano trio; the decision behind this is somewhat explained in the album's liner notes, but whether or not such a transcription is appropriate or needed will lie in the individual views of listeners. Neither the technical demands nor intonation difficulties are mitigated in the transcription process, and an entirely new obstacle -- balance -- is brought up with the inclusion of the piano. The acclaimed Weilerstein Trio takes on this tall order. For the most part, it is a successful undertaking. Balance is handled well, the transcription is true to the score, and the performance indeed captures Tolstoy's drama. Intonation does remain an issue, and even seasoned players like Donald and Alisa Weilerstein are not immune. The album continues with an ardent performance of Schumann's G minor Piano Trio, and another transcription for piano trio off Schumann's Op. 56, originally written for an obscure and peculiarly pedaled keyboard instrument known as the pedalflügel. From a technical perspective, Schumann's G minor trio is by far the star of the disc, while the Janácek is a little rougher around the edges, but completely enthralling. The Schumann Op. 56 is certainly not one of his better compositions and the transcription does little to elevate its status.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|String Quartet No. 1 ("Kreutzer Sonata"), JW 7/8|
|Etudes (6) in Canon Form for pedal piano, Op. 56|
|Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110|