Rachmaninov: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2
Although composed relatively early in his career, these two Trios contain sufficient hints of Rachmaninov’s mature style to warrant occasional performances. The single movement First, written when he was 18, is full of sumptuous melodies and opens in striking fashion with atmospheric string writing. Its successor, reflecting despair at the death of Tchaikovsky, is conceived on a much more ambitious scale with a three-movement structure closely modelled on the older composer’s A minor Trio.
This release marks the conclusion of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s recorded survey of all Rachmaninov’s works involving piano, a project that began 50 years ago with a classic account of the Third Piano Concerto. Such a lifelong devotion to this composer brings great dividends in these performances which are notable for their control and emotional restraint. Even in the sections where the composer unleashes passagework of considerable pianistic virtuosity, Ashkenazy is scrupulously discreet, avoiding any temptation to swamp his excellent string partners with over-heated gestures. Yet despite the wonderfully balanced textures, there are moments, especially in the more epic narrative of the Second, where all the players might have provided a wider range of colours. And the gloomy return of the first movement’s opening theme could be more atmospheric. Still, these performances provide rich musical rewards as does the transcription of Vocalise played with great nobility by Zsolt-Tihámer Visontay.