Dvorak: Piano Trios, Opp. 21 & 65

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WORKS: Piano Trios, Opp. 21 & 65
PERFORMER: Vienna Piano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 342 1261-2
Dvorák’s Op. 21 Piano Trio is a marvel: composed just on the verge of his early maturity, it anticipates so many of what we now recognise as characteristics of his later style. The very opening breathes the air of his ‘American’ manner and the first movement’s delightful second theme looks forward more than two decades to the composer’s last symphonic poem, A Hero’s Song. More than this, the coherence of form in each movement and the use of dance rhythm in the scherzo foreshadow the ingredients that make such works as the Second Piano Quintet popular hits. Written in a consciously more spare, and to an extent, severe style, the Op. 65 Trio is perhaps the closest Dvorák comes to Viennese Classicism. While he never compromises his melodic style, this is a demanding work for both performers and listeners which, if successfully treated, can lead to a marvellous sense of catharsis in the closing pages of the finale. These performances by the Vienna Piano Trio are, quite simply, stunning. I have never heard care for detail balanced with expressive purpose work so successfully in this repertoire. From the electrifying start of Op. 21, nearly every phrase has something ear-catching to offer. The sheer freshness of approach and clear belief in the value of this music demands attention at every stage. The same level of understanding is also everywhere apparent in the denser, more complex F minor Trio: interpretative playing of the highest quality enhanced by a natural sound put this issue well ahead of any other contenders. Jan Smaczny