Lang Lang / Mischa Maisky / Vadim Repin

Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov: Piano Trios

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Ideally, a piano trio should be balanced in its voices and the parts more or less equally matched in expression, but it sometimes happens in late Romantic chamber music that an overwrought piano part can create the opposite conditions. In the Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor by Sergey Rachmaninov and the Piano Trio in A minor by Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky, the piano is clearly the dominant force, because it carries most of the thematic material, harmonic textures, and dramatic gestures, and thereby reduces the violin and cello to subsidiary roles. As one of the great virtuoso pianists, Rachmaninov undoubtedly planned that the pianist should be the leader and conceived this single-movement trio almost as a piano sonata with obbligato parts for the strings, while Tchaikovsky simply overwrote the keyboard part, and its density and complexity make the violin and cello seem like weaker participants. With these problems in mind, pianist Lang Lang, violinist Vadim Repin, and cellist Mischa Maisky adjust their parts to give greater prominence to the violin and cello, and the piano's dynamics are taken down a bit to avoid overwhelming them. Moreover, careful microphone placement has given the strings the added presence they need to stand up to the keyboard, though Repin at times plays slightly softer than Maisky and occasionally seems to be slipping out of the audio field. Still, this ad hoc trio of Deutsche Grammophon stars seems to work well in this repertoire, given the challenges put before them, and fans of these musicians will find their passionate performances quite enjoyable.

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