Trio Portici

Mendelssohn: Chamber Music

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Throughout his short lifetime, Felix Mendelssohn turned often to various chamber music genres. He visited everything from cello and violin sonatas to string quartets and, of course, piano trios. The first of these trios, in D minor, was wildly popular during Mendelssohn's life and has since become one of the most frequently performed examples in the repertoire. As such, there are countless recordings of the great work ranging in quality from the sublime to the wholly unacceptable. This Pavane Records album featuring the Belgian-based Trio Portici does not achieve either of these extremes. Overall, the playing is generally in tune and technically proficient, but the trio offers little that elevates its interpretation over others. The rapid outer movements and nimble Scherzo are played at a rather modest, laid-back pace. Balance and sound quality are also issues with which the group grapples, with the violin often dominating the thin-sounding cello and the recorded sound quality being too muddy and diffuse to allow the sparkling piano part to be as crisp and clean as it could be. Cellist Luc Tooten fares better in the Assai Tranquillo, the last cello work Mendelssohn was to complete. The Op. 4 Violin Sonata, written about the same time as the famous Octet, is a surprisingly modern-sounding composition. Here again, balance is less of an issue than when all three of the musicians are playing together, but Pavane's fuzzy sound still gets in the way of the glistening precision that characterizes superior performances.

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