Emanuel Ax / Yo-Yo Ma / Itzhak Perlman

Mendelssohn: Piano Trios

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While it is pleasurable to hear three of the world's best-known virtuosos playing together with such extraordinary sympathy and enthusiasm, the actual performances by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Emanuel Ax on this disc of Mendelssohn's two piano trios are merely so-so. Each alone sounds marvelous -- Perlman with his sweet intonation, Ma with his lyrical phrasing, and Ax with his sonorous tone -- but together they are not quite the sum of their parts. They seem to be half-listening to each other, but mostly listening to themselves, and their ensemble, though more than functional, is manifestly less than tight. Often entrances and attacks are not wholly unified, rhythms are not completely integrated, and worst of all, interpretations seem to have been made up as they go along. That the performances work so well is testimony to their individual excellences. That they fail to succeed as a unit is proof of their ineluctable individuality. The sound is warm, but a bit thin.

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