Arensky: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Arensky
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2
PERFORMER: Dussek Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84398
Anton Arensky’s piano trios support a balanced view of him as both a product of Rimsky-Korsakov’s nationalism and Tchaikovsky’s refined, more eclectic style. Arensky’s First Trio (1894) was written in memory of the great cellist Carl Davidov, and has always enjoyed reasonable currency, with around a dozen recordings (among them several important historical documents) presently listed in the catalogue. This new account from the Dussek Trio has the required sense of motoric urgency and a touching lyric sensitivity, too, with pianist Michael Dussek very much the dominant force. Dussek relishes the Chopinesque challenges of Arensky’s keyboard passagework in both outer movements, but the cello’s contribution, particularly in the elegiac Largo, lacks both weight and gravity. The Borodin Trio’s Yuli Turovsky brings Arensky’s melancholic musings fully to life (Chandos), while Bernard Greenhouse, the long-standing Beaux Arts cellist, adds unforgettable lustre here.

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Arensky’s Second Trio goes well enough with the Dusseks, though competition here is much more limited; the New Munich Trio (Calliope) sounds competent and reliable, if at times slightly ponderous, but the Beaux Arts (Philips) transcends every expectation in its matchless 1993 performance. Meridian’s recorded sound is pleasingly detailed, without favouring the piano excessively, but the Philips engineering is superior, and the finale’s theme and six variations (modelled on the second movement of TchaikovskyTrio) are individually banded. The Beaux Arts disc remains the obvious first choice here, with the Dusseks coming a creditable second with performances that respond convincingly enough to the spirit of these undervalued scores. Michael Jameson