ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Complete piano trios
PERFORMER: Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Tanja Tetzlaff (cello), Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1271-2D
Given so much fine musicianship, and particularly such fine ensemble playing, it’s a shame not to be more resoundingly positive about the result. The Ondine recording team have caught the spirit of these performances well, with the piano a strong presence yet without swamping the more fragile solo strings. As to the playing, the opening of Op. 8 is richly promising, and the intimate dialogue at the end of the first movement is one of those passages where that promise is fulfilled, for a moment at least.
Surprisingly it’s the relatively neglected Trio No. 2 in C major, Op. 87, that comes off best, particularly the shadowy Scherzo and the Andante con moto the precedes it – so often blankly austere in performance. But there are places in all three Trios where I felt that the attention to detail was just too scrupulous, the tendency to home in on expressive minutiae too much ‘in the moment’ at the expense of the sense of larger shape. This is most disappointing in those glorious long Brahmsian melodies that can give the impression of soaring for minutes on end. The gorgeous second theme in the opening movement of Op. 101 again feels too fixated on telling phrases ever to achieve lift off, while the trio theme from the First Trio’s Scherzo, normally a song of joyous swinging momentum, is more massive than mobile here. The final impression is of Brahms that flickers on and off – interesting, certainly, but not entirely satisfying. Stephen Johnson