Smetana • Dvorak: Piano Trios
Smetana’s great G minor Trio is the thread running through these three CDs. Composed in memory of his daughter Bedπi≥ka, it was written in just a few weeks in 1855. Blending high seriousness with elegiac lyricism, the Trio also initiated an experimental trend in Czech chamber music – sometimes involving elements of autobiography – that runs through Dvoˇrák’s Dumky Trio to the two quartets of Janáˇcek.
The Dvoˇrák Trio bring drama to the craggy opening of Smetana’s Trio and relax into the lyrical secondary material without losing sight of the tensions underlying the movement. They also have the measure of the noble second trio of the central scherzo, and the Schubertian finale has an appropriately haunted quality. All in all, it’s a fine reading of this remarkable work.
Dvoˇrák’s Dumky Trio was composed for his farewell tour of Bohemia and Moravia before leaving for New York in autumn 1892. It was a bold decision to create six movements that alternate slowish and fast tempos, but history has proved it a success. Intended for audiences comprising connoisseurs and lay listeners, it is uncomplicated and direct. Once again the Dvoˇrák Trio get inside the music, even if details are occasionally lost.
At a slightly brisker tempo, the Sitkovetsky Trio take a more nuanced view of the first movement of Smetana’s Trio. While the work can accommodate a range of interpretations, this reading has a tendency to lose the thread of the musical argument. The scherzo is credibly spectral, but its second trio seems a touch perfunctory – a pity, since the strings produce a very beautiful tone throughout. The same is true of their reading of Dvoˇrák’s high-minded F minor Trio: though always attractive in sound, the musical line in the outer movements is occasionally lost. Their performance in the slow movement and the Suk Elegy, meanwhile, are very fine.
The Feininger’s Trio’s coupling of the Smetana with the moving G minor Trio is entirely appropriate since Dvoˇrák almost certainly wrote it to commemorate the death of his daughter Josefa. Its performance on this disc is enormously attractive. It’s a pity the sound is a little close compared with the other two recordings. They make the Suk Trio sound overly insistent, but their way with Smetana is winning.