ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Piano Trios Nos 1-3
PERFORMER: Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Emanuel Ax (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88985407292
To the list of piano trio supergroups – Cortot, Thibaud and Casals; Rubinstein, Heifetz and Feuermann; Gilels, Kogan and Rostropovich – can now be added Ax, Kavakos and Ma. Leonidas Kavakos fits seamlessly with regular partners Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma, and their performances of Brahms’s three Piano Trios are gratifyingly expansive and red-blooded.
They appear to have undertaken this project not for business but for pleasure. This is perhaps most evident in the inner movements. Trio No. 1’s scherzo has an irresistibly mischievous lightness, Kavakos’s moments of glassy, vibrato-less tone adding to the tension. The corresponding movement of Trio No. 3 is whispering, almost ethereal, but the playing still has presence.
The dense outer movements, however, ideally need a stronger sense of long-view direction. Some passages are as nuanced and precisely weighed as one would expect from any of these three artists performing solo: in Trio No. 1, for instance, the way the thread towards the end of the first movement is handed from violin and piano to the cello and then back again. Yet just before that movement winds down, when violin and cello finally play the melody in octaves, should the joining together not seem more meaningful than it does here?
There’s impeccable musicality and considerable relish in these performances, but there are more searching accounts.