Brahms

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Trios: No. 1 (1854 & 1891 versions); Nos 2 & 3
PERFORMER: Oliver Schnyder Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 88843095422

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Brahms composed the first of his three Piano Trios aged 21, then pruned and recomposed it in his late 50s. The Oliver Schnyder Trio’s new Brahms set is different from most in that they include both versions. Indeed, they are ardent advocates for the earlier one, which bursts with youthful vigour but sprawls under the weight of its own ideas, and is by some way the longest work on the recording. The only sleeve note is a letter from Oliver Schnyder addressed to Brahms in which he castigates the composer for what he sees as a lack of self-belief.

Schnyder, the pianist, and his colleagues, both principals in the Tonhalle Zurich, play with passionate commitment. Occasionally this spills over, most consistently in the first movement of the Trio No. 3, which just seems angry; more often, though, we hear a well-dovetailed pair of string soloists soaring through the spans of Brahms’s long melodies. The piano’s bass can sound murky, and the instrument is some way back in the mix, so that towards the end of the first movement of the revised First Trio Schnyder is merely accompanying violinist Andreas Janke rather than duetting with him. The beginning of that movement, however, is far more typical of this ensemble’s warmth and poise, with the first theme burgeoning slowly and surely into a climax of real stature in which all three instruments are tightly intertwined.

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Erica Jeal