Vienna Piano Trio

Smetana: Piano Trio, Op. 15; Tschaikowsky: Piano Trio, Op. 50

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The Vienna Piano Trio here makes Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50, sound a bit like the Schubert trios it recorded on a successful release on the audiophile German label MDG. The frenetic emotional quality often heard in Tchaikovsky is played down in favor of an even and varied flow. Hear the group's measured quality in the passionate dominant-chord climax that occurs several times in the trio's first movement, for example. What you'll think of this largely depends on how you feel about Tchaikovsky in the first place; if you like the trio (which is something of an underrated work), you'll hear lots of unexpected details in the Vienna's performance; if you consider the structure of the long outer movements inchoate, it's not likely that anything the group does will change your mind. It's hard to dispute the sheer virtuosity of the performance, however; there's not a note out of place, and the long lines of the Tchaikovsky finale are impressive. Perhaps it could be said that this is Austrian Tchaikovsky rather than Russian. The Smetana Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15, is ironically given a bit more sentiment than the Tchaikovsky; it's a superb performance throughout. The sound, recorded at a small former farmhouse attached to a monastery that MDG has used before, could hardly be improved upon; it has an appropriate chamber quality, resonance, and profound detail. Those who love late Romantic chamber music are likely to find revelations here.

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