Czech Piano Trios

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COMPOSERS: Eben,Martinu,Smetana
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Smetana: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15; Martinu: Piano Trio No. 1 (Cinq pièces brèves); Eben: Piano Trio
PERFORMER: The Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67730

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This is a well planned CD. Smetana’s G minor trio – an outpouring of grief on the death of a beloved daughter – began a radical tradition in Czech chamber music that extends well into the 20th century.

Martinu’s First Piano Trio, also known as Cinq pièces brèves, was composed in Paris during his most modernist phase: the faster movements are brittle in quality, but the slow movement has extraordinary lyrical intensity.

Petr Eben is one of the most substantial figures in Czech composition from the later 20th century. His 1988 trio is a serious work grappling with the contradictions in sonority between piano and strings.

The Florestan are particularly successful in the two 20th-century trios. The brief Adagio of the Martin∞ is remarkably moving. If anything, the Eben is more impressive with the players completely in command of his distinctive and often introspective idiom. They are less successful in Smetana’s Trio.

The playing here is always expressive, but they sometimes seem to skate over its more elegiac qualities: the stirring second trio of the middle movement, is particularly disappointing. 

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These performances of the Eben and Martin∞ trios are well-worth investigating, but the Smetana Trio on Supraphon are a more certain recommendation in the Smetana. Jan Smaczny