Sunday, 14 December 2014

Authoritative performances of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor and Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 from Trio Testore on a new release from Audite

In April 2013 I reviewed a terrific new recording made by Trio Testore of Brahms’ complete Piano Trios on a release from Audite
Now Audite have just released a new recording from Trio Testore of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor coupled with Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No 1


The Trio Testore was founded in 2000 by three internationally established concert artists, pianist Hyun-Jung Kim-Schweiker, Violinist Franziska Pietsch and Cellist Hans-Christian Schweiker. The name of the trio comes from the fact that Franziska Pietsch and Hans-Christian Schweiker both play instruments made by the well-known Milanese luthier family Testore (the violin by Carlo Antonio, 1751 and the cello by Carlo Giuseppe, 1711).

Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor is an early work written in 1892 coming just after his first piano concerto and in the same year as his opera Aleko and famous Prelude in C sharp minor. It took him only a few days to write and was performed soon after by the composer with violinist David Kreyn and cellist Anatoly Brandukov. It is in a single movement marked Lento lugubre – più vivo.

As the strings open Trio Testore create a lovely, almost other worldly sound to which the piano adds the rather Brahmsian melody, beautifully paced and soon increasing in passion. There is some lovely playing as cello then the viola takes the melody against a fine piano accompaniment. There are bursts of emotion with the music at times rising to an intense passion finely revealed by this trio who provide fine string textures and some glorious piano passages. They deliver terrific ensemble whilst maintaining a wholly spontaneous feel.  

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50, completed in 1882, is dedicated ‘à la mémoire d’un grand artiste’ (to the memory of a great artist). The great artist in question was the pianist, conductor, composer and director of the Moscow Conservatory Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881) who had died the previous March and, despite his devastating criticism of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto continued to support Tchaikovsky, conducting many premiere performances of his works.

The Piano Trio is in two movements, the first, Pezzo elegiac is marked Moderato assai – Allegro giusto – Adagio con duolo – Allegro giusto. Trio Testore bring the same emotional sensibility together with a fine breadth and a lovely rubato. They display some terrific interplay rising to moments of fine passion conjuring up a real stormy sequence before the Adagio con duolo where they reveal a wistful, gentle beautifully shaped section and some exquisitely hushed moments full of restrained emotion before allowing the storm to subside for the lovely coda.

In the second movement Tema con Variazioni the piano sets out gently the simple, very Russian theme, recalling a folk song that was lodged in Tchaikovsky’s memory from a picnic taken with Rubinstein nine years earlier where the theme had been heard. The whole Trio join for the first variation with a spontaneity that sounds as though they have been caught improvising. There are some lovely little nuances from the Trio, beautifully shaped to which they bring a nice rhythmic lift. There are some beautifully fleet moments from pianist Hyun-Jung Kim-Schweiker and beautifully delicate sprung pizzicato passages. Variation six, Tempo di Valse, has a lovely light playfulness. Their great ensemble is shown particularly in the Fuga with this Trio really seeming to enjoy themselves.  In the Andante flebile the fluent rippling of the pianist is joined by the violin of Franziska Pietsch in a lovely variation full of introspection with cellist Hans-Christian Schweiker taking the theme before it is shared. The Mazurka receives a lovely lift from Hyun-Jung Kim-Schweiker in some terrific passages with the changes of tempi and rhythm superbly done. The strings return before variation eleven brings a gently bubbling flow.

Trio Testore bring a confident opening to Variazioni Finale e Coda pushing forward with great panache in the Allegro risoluto, finely controlled each time the pressure is eased.  There is some real edge of the seat playing here that is absolutely terrific before reaching a peak and moving into the Andante con moto with terrific piano chords over passionate strings and the theme from the opening re-appearing.  There is playing of great weight and authority from the Trio before we arrive at the resigned coda.

This is as fine a performance of the Tchaikovsky Trio that you’ll ever find with these players putting their hearts and souls into the music. The engineers provide a fine recording in the acoustic of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany the venue for so many fine recordings. There are informative notes.

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