Mendelssohn Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2
This is an affectionate performance of Mendelssohn’s two Piano Trios, displaying (with only a single exception) a firm grasp of each movement’s architecture – in the slow movement of the C minor trio, for example, the build-up to the climax is made with complete naturalness. Particularly impressive are the occasional touches of rubato to make a rhetorical point, which never destroy the flow or give any hint of grandstanding, but are just enough to remove any hint of dryness. Technically all is secure, with the bonus of a rich sound from cellist David Finckel, a generally sweet one from violinist Philip Setzer and exemplary lightness of touch from pianist Wu Han (today’s brand of Chinese pianism sits perfectly with what we know of Mendelssohn’s own – shapely, fluent, and lightly pedalled); the two scherzos head into fairy realms, and in the first movement of the C minor Trio there is sharp contrast between rippling piano and smooth strings. Nor is power lacking when needed, to which the warm recording does justice.
The exception referred to above is the final paragraph of the D minor’s finale, where the composer asks for ‘più animato’ not once but twice. The second of these calls, with ten bars to go, does tempt the violinist, but he is instantly brought to heel by his colleagues and the movement ends at its original speed. Affection in playing Mendelssohn is, of course, a must: but there should also be place for his wildness and known addiction to extreme tempos.