Benvenue Fortepiano Trio / Monica Huggett

Mendelssohn: The Piano Trios

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Mendelssohn: The Piano Trios Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Unlike his predecessors Beethoven and Schubert, who visited the piano trio genre early in their careers and did not return to it, Felix Mendelssohn did not compose his two piano trios (that use the standard instrumentation) until much later in his career (Opp. 49 and 66). The result is compositions that blend Mendelssohn's pervasive youthful frivolity and mercurial playfulness with the mature compositional style marked by the occasional moments of introspection and brooding. Since their premieres in 1840 and 1845, respectively, the two piano trios have secured a position as two of the most frequently performed and recorded compositions in the repertoire. This Avie disc features performances by the period instrument ensemble, the Benvenue Fortepiano Trio. Here, "period instrument ensemble" is far from synonymous with dainty, frail, or stuffy. Benvenue plays with incredible amounts of gusto, passion, far-reaching dynamics, intensity, and drive, more than even some "modern instrument ensembles" are able to achieve. Each of the ensemble's members are themselves masters of their instruments and their individual performances are marked by technical brilliance, as well as keen musical understanding of the score. Together, there are times when the three do not produce an entirely cohesive, well-blended sound. For one, cellist Tanya Tomkins' sound is lost far too often. Her tone is more warm and subdued, while violinist Monica Huggett possesses a more penetrating, focused sound that ensures she is always able to be heard. Apart from these issues, this disc is still worth checking out.

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