Grechaninov: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Cello Sonata in E minor, Op. 113

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COMPOSERS: Grechaninov
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2; Cello Sonata in E minor, Op. 113
PERFORMER: Moscow Rachmaninov Trio
Sergei Taneyev, the dedicatee of Grechaninov’s tediously backward-looking First Piano Trio, imposed standards in chamber music which his one-time pupil never begins to approach. Even the rhythmic energy which launches the C minor Trio’s opening Allegro passionato, reaping (as late as 1906) the whirlwind of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, becomes tiresome when the melodic substance is so synthetic; as a reactionary Grechaninov nonetheless has nothing to offer us in the way of memorably crafted tunes. The later Trio, composed in 1930 during Grechaninov’s Paris exile, gives Hyperion’s annotator Robert Matthew Walker the chance to take a good look at what he calls its ‘modal uncertainty’; but as with the Cello Sonata of a few years earlier there needs to be some sort of core here – and Natalia Savinova’s glassily recorded tone in the Sonata adds to the alienation. The players as a team do their best, and actually manage to make the first movement coda of the earlier Sonata exciting at a point when the listener has almost given up hope; but they’re left with generalised platitudes that would tax the creative skills of the very greatest piano trio. So let’s hope they manage to unearth something a little more grateful next time round. David Nice