Dvorak: Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat; Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat; Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor
PERFORMER: Joachim Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554309
At the start of Dvorák’s First Piano Trio – in fact, his third since two earlier efforts were destroyed or mislaid – it is hard to imagine that we are not listening to a lost work of his American years: the rustling accompaniment and spacious, pentatonic melody seem very much a part of the sound-world of the American Quartet and Quintet. Indeed, a great deal of this Trio, Dvorák’s first chamber-music masterpiece, looks forward: the first movement’s second theme to the late symphonic poem The Hero’s Song, the polka rhythms of the scherzo to the popular tone of the Slavonic Dances and the slow movement is the very essence of Dvorák’s melancholy dumka manner. Even without these pre-echoes this is a remarkable work and the build to the return of material in the first movement is one of the finest Dvorák ever wrote. The Second Trio, though characterful and deeply felt, perhaps inspired by the death of his children, suffers slightly from over-emphasis.

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The Joachim Trio’s performances are full of insight. There are some tempo irregularities, but these do not get in the way – my main problem with a CD to which I will certainly return is the rather distant recorded sound and the lack of prominence accorded the expressive playing of the string players. Apart from the problem of balance, no one will be disappointed by these performances, but for a more complete experience try the Borodin Trio’s marvellously spacious performance or the ever-reliable Beaux Arts Trio. Jan Smaczny