Chausson, Tchaikovsky

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COMPOSERS: Chausson,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Centaur
WORKS: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 3
PERFORMER: Yuval Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CRC 2496 Reissue (1989, 1990)
I hadn’t come across the Yuval Trio before: it’s an Israeli group who played together for 25 years before disbanding in 1994, and the string-playing is very much in the big, muscular Jewish tradition. That certainly suits the high Romanticism of these two works, but I found myself willing them to lighten up occasionally: in the short scherzo of the Chausson, there’s just too much tone to allow fleetness of foot, though the following slow movement maintains a terrific intensity. Turning back to the Beaux Arts Trio, I found greater poise and distinction, without any loss of power.

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The Tchaikovsky Trio is a work which can take a lot of intensity – he wrote it in memory of Nicolai Rubinstein – but the pianist has to be particularly careful not to let the sometimes thick writing clog the texture. In the first movement, Jonathan Zak is usually successful in this, and he’s helped by the vibrant playing of his colleagues: they’re very much of one mind, and hold the attention over what can easily become a sprawling 18 minutes. The big set of variations that makes up the rest of the Trio doesn’t work quite as well – there’s not enough variety of sound from the string players to give a different character to each variation. When they arrive at the massive final variation and coda, all passion has already been spent. For the real measure of the work, in a white-hot live performance, go to Kremer, Maisky and Argerich. Martin Cotton