Thursday 28 November 2013

Trio Wanderer give one of the finest performances on disc of Piano Trios by Arensky and Tchaikovsky on a new release from Harmonia Mundi

The Wanderer Trio, whose name represents an inner journey, closely linking them to Schubert and German Romanticism, and a journey of openness and curiosity that explores music ranging from Haydn to contemporary scores, celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2012.

All the members of the Wanderer Trio, Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), Raphaël Pidoux (cello) and Vincent Coq (piano), graduated from the National Music Conservatory of Paris and have studied with grand masters such as Jean-Claude Pennetier, Jean Hubeau, and Menahem Pressler of the Beaux-Arts Trio and the Amadeus Quartet. They won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich in 1988 and the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in the USA in 1990. From 1988 to 1990, they took master classes in chamber music at the Festival of La Roque d'Anthéron.

The Trio has performed on the most prestigious music stages including Berlin's Philharmonic, Paris' Théâtre des Champs Elysées, London's Wigmore Hall, Milan's Teatro alla Scala, Barcelona's Palau de la Musica, Washington's Library of Congress, Rio de Janeiro's Teatro Municipal, Tokyo's Kioi Hall, Zürich's Tonhalle and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. They have also performed at major festivals such as Edinburgh, Montreux, Feldkirch, Schleswig Holstein, Rheingau Musiksommmer, Colmar, La Roque d'Anthéron, the Folles Journées de Nantes, Granada, Stresa, Osaka and three times at Salzburg festival.

Harmonia Mundi  have released nine previous recordings by the Wanderer Trio covering such composers as Chausson, Ravel, Haydn, Shostakovich, Copland, Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn, Smetana, Schubert, Brahms, Hummel, Beethoven, Liszt and Messiaen.

Their recordings have been awarded several prizes including Choc du Monde de la Musique, Fanfare's Want List, Critic's Choice of Gramophone, CD of the Month by the BBC Music Magazine, Empfehlung, CDs des Monat Fono Forum, Diapason d'Or of the Year, Midem International Classical Music Award. 

The Trio Wanderer's 2013-2014 engagements include performances at Paris' Théâtre des Champs Elysées (Beethoven Triple concerto) and Paris' Opéra Comique (Beethoven complete Piano Trios), London's Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, la Roque d'Anthéron Festival, Bath Festival, as well as concerts in Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, Canada and USA.

It was, therefore with great expectation that I approached their new release from Harmonia Mundi that features the piano trios of Arensky and Tchaikovsky.

HMC 902161
Anton Stepanovich Arensky (1861-1906) Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.32 was written in memory of the cellist, composer and teacher, Karl Yulyevich Davydov (1838–1889), and published in 1894. Though his compositions include two symphonies, concertos for both piano and violin, and two string quartets as well as operas, choral works and piano works, it is his first piano trio that seems to receive the most attention.

The opening Allegro moderato has some lovely broad lines as it unfolds with some passionate string playing from the Wanderer Trio. Arensky’s main melody is a wonderful theme with especially fine, fluent piano playing. The Trio Wanderer make it obvious why this is the most performed of all Arensky’s works, the way they find so much drama and passion in the music. Their playing is so crisp with terrific ensemble yet each player retaining so much individual character.

There is pinpoint precision in the opening of the Scherzo. Allegro molto and a beautiful trio section, showing just how well these players blend. A lovely cello theme opens the Elegia. Adagio before the other players join with more first rate playing. In the rising melody over a rippling piano accompaniment the Trio are exquisite with lovely sonorities as the movement progresses.

The Finale. Allegro non troppo brings tremendous string playing over a wonderful piano part with such drama, passion and drive. The gentle trio section is full of introspective beauty before a terrific coda.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) also wrote his Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50 following the death of a colleague, in this case his friend, the pianist, conductor and composer, Nikolay Grigoryevich Rubinstein (1835-1881). It was premiered at the Moscow Conservatory in 1882.

What a glorious opening the Pezzo elegiac. Moderato assai has, so rich and flowing in this Trio’s hands, one of Tchaikovsky’s most inspired themes. There is a lovely tenderness in the central section and some exquisite hushed beauty. This Trio bring a sense of authority and command as well as some tremendously dynamic playing.

In the Tema con Variationi. Andante con moto Tchaikovsky presents his theme simply on the piano before all the players subject it to eleven variations. There are many fine moments in this performance such as Variation II where there is some lovely string playing, full of panache, Variation IV with its lovely broad melody for strings, so richly played and the tiny Variation V that receives some especially fine playing from the Trio’s pianist.

There is a lovely finesse shown in the valse Variation No.VI, more terrific playing from the Wanderers pianist in Variation VII, Variation VIII that starts with a fugue for piano before strings enter building up a fine momentum and Variation IX where there is an exquisitely played violin melody over a rippling piano accompaniment before the cello takes up the violin theme.

The Variazione Finale e Coda. Allegro risoluto e con fuoco – Andante con moto leads off with great panache and continues to build to a tremendously passionate climax as the opening theme returns to give such a feeling of completion and overall form before the grief laden coda.

Trio Wanderer really throw themselves into this great trio in what is surely one of the finest performances on disc.

They receive an excellent recording and there are informative booklet notes.




  1. There are better performances of the Tchaikovsky's trio : by Oborin / Oistrakh / Knushevitsky (Brilliant Classics) and by Gilels / Kogan / Rostropovich. This one is very fine, but
    a) the mazurka variation does not pick up the right rhythm (just listen to the Oborin's and Rubinstein's performances, their mazurkas are superb)
    b) Wanderer's recording lacks in emotional depth, which is to be found at the mentioned above Russian recordings.

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