Trio Marc Chagall

Spread Your Wings

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Preiser's Trio Marc Chagall: Spread Your Wings is a showcase for a young Viennese chamber group, the Chagall Trio, co-sponsored by the Herbert von Karajan Centrum, a performance arts organization, the manufacturer of FACC and Boeing Aircraft. With so many avenues of support going into this disc, that means Preiser will not have to shoulder as much of the financial burden of having made Trio Marc Chagall: Spread Your Wings when it tanks. In a way, justice is not served; it is Preiser that's responsible for making this release not work as it should; the thin, glassy sound of the recording renders it practically unlistenable, even as the musical performance seems fine.

Many of the album's attributes are certainly in place; the front cover represents a radical departure for Preiser, known for the unanimity of its cover design in series such as Lebendige Vergangenheit. Trio Marc Chagall: Spread Your Wings comes with a full-color, 14-page booklet complete with glamorous shots of the group, biographies of these young musicians, and even mission statements from the major sponsors of the project in English and German; it is not unlike a package one might expect from the Kronos Quartet. The premiere work on the program, Ukrainian composer Joseph Dorfman's Five Images after Marc Chagall, is at least an interesting piece, sounding a little like Anton Webern meeting Mauricio Kagel on an Israeli kibbutz. As far as one can tell from the Brahms and Glinka works, these are good, and polished performances that smack of the enthusiasm of youthfulness. They could benefit from a little less speed -- a typical performance of the Brahms Trio clocks in at about 27 minutes, and this comes in a 25:25, although the Chagall Trio wouldn't be the first ensemble to play it at, or near, that quickly.

Nonetheless, all of these attempted analyses of the performance are moot, as the recording is just plain awful. Chamber groups need to be recorded at least somewhat close up, no matter how much reverberation is employed. Trio Marc Chagall: Spread Your Wings sounds like it was recorded in a public lavatory and has an antiseptic, metallic-sounding artificial reverberation added. The clarinet's high pitches are piercing rather than silvery, and tinkly high notes from the piano have the same effect. There is no low end in the recording, except for the occasional piano cluster in the left hand in the Dorfman, and the cello is practically invisible. Trio Marc Chagall: Spread Your Wings is sub-standard by anyone's definition; perhaps it should be titled "Clip Your Wings," as sonically that is what Preiser's engineers have done to this promising group.

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