Fanny Mendelssohn • C Schumann
C Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17; Fanny Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11; String Quartet in E flat major
The Nash Ensemble
Hyperion CDA68307 71:49 mins
Abundantly talented, technically fully qualified and with that certain something that makes music appealing, Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn had everything for a promising career as composers. The main problem, of course, was that they didn’t wear trousers. Audiences and critics, performers and to an extent their families never quite got behind their ability. This is a great recording for playing to friends unidentified; skimming the surface they might guess Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, passingly even Beethoven and Chopin, but in the end here is clear evidence that Clara and Fanny possessed significantly more talent than many of their male composing contemporaries.
Clara’s Trio from 1846 is excellently crafted. The outer movements have a restless quality, strongly characterised melody, developmental writing with a powerful sense of direction and superb codas. Fanny’s almost exactly contemporary trio is quite different in character. The instrumental detail is more arresting and the melodic accent more strongly characterised. The slow movement, with its ear-catching irregular phrasing and gloriously lyrical central section is a real gem and the finale is highly original both formally and in its use of the instruments. Fanny’s string quartet from 12 years earlier, perhaps understandably, is less assured and while always attractive lacks the sheer creative force of the piano trio.
These well recorded and beautifully played performances get inside the musical dynamics of these enormously appealing works and in the case of the piano trios make a good case for their having an enduring presence in the repertoire.