Schubert: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2; Notturno

Klaviertrio Amsterdam

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Schubert: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 2; Notturno Review

by James Manheim

Among the dozens of available versions of Schubert's two piano trios, spacious and lyrical products of the end of the composer's life, these stand out among those available for a budget price; they are original recordings on the Dutch discount label Brilliant. The founder of the Klaviertrio Amsterdam is Hungarian-born pianist Klára Würtz, and those who have enjoyed her other performances of Viennese music will probably like these, as well, for one gets a strong sense that it is she who is driving the interpretations. Sample the first movement of the Piano Trio in E flat major, D. 929, to get an idea of how it works. The quintessentially Schubertian moment in this movement, uniting intense lyricism with a great step forward in chromatic harmony, is the appearance of the B minor second theme, so distant harmonically from the heavily triadic opening E flat theme. Würtz favors the intellectual over the emotional here. Note how she punches out the B flat dominants in the cadential material preceding the B minor theme, sharpening the contrast of color and then keeps to the trio's already brisk tempo, a click or two past the marked Allegro, as the actual theme begins. It's this way all the way through; you may wish for a bit more of the Schubertian melancholy, but the trio has a firm grip on these sprawling scores. The slow movements are lovely, with gorgeous cantabile melodies, and the Notturno in E flat major, D. 897, apparently a rejected slow movement for the Piano Trio in B flat major, D. 898, makes a deeply tranquil entr'acte here. The performances on the two CDs originated in different locations (and three years apart); the sound of the second, recorded at the mansion-like Onder de Linden concert hall, is superior. Brief booklet notes are in English only.

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