Josef Suk: Piano Trio; Piano Quartet

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The ATOS Trio's second recording for the CPO label is vastly better than its first, not because of the group's performances, which could hardly be bettered on either disc, but because the first disc featured music by Heinrich von Herzogenberg, a decidedly fourth-rank German Romantic composer, and the second is devoted to music by Josef Suk, a second-rank Czech Romantic composer. In this program of early works, composed before Suk's grief over his wife's death immeasurably deepened his music, Germany's ATOS Trio delivers performances as fine as, or finer than, any previously available, including those by the composer's grandson and namesake. With immense power, intense expressivity, and a wholly unified ensemble, the performances of the Piano Quartet, Op. 1, and the Piano Trio, Op. 2, make the music sound like the product of a fully accomplished composer who knows exactly what he wants to say and has the technique to say it. The performance of the later Elegy for piano trio, Op. 23, is even better; richer, deeper, and even more heartrending. Perhaps best of all is violinist Annette von Hehn and pianist Thomas Hoppe's account of the Four Pieces for violin and piano, Op. 17. Hehn's ferocious attacks and concentrated tone are more than persuasive, they are hypnotic, and Hoppe's accompaniments are sensitive yet challenging. Captured in lush, warm yet detailed digital sound, this disc should be heard by anyone who loves Suk's music, and anyone who wants to hear great music-making.

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