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History of the Russian Piano Trio, Vol. 3

The Brahms Trio (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

History of the Russian Piano Trio, Vol. 3
Borodin: Piano Trio in D; Cui: A Argenteau, Op. 40 No. 2 – ‘Farniente’ (arr. Piano Trio); Rimsky-Korsakov: Piano Trio in C minor (completed by Steinberg)
The Brahms Trio
Naxos 8.574114   68:58 mins

None of the great Russian piano trios features here – Tchaikovsky’s was on the Brahms Trio’s second volume, Taneyev’s and Shostakovich’s are presumably yet to come – and the major offerings here don’t show the true personalities of Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin. But there’s abundant charm, craftsmanship and – in the case of Korsakov’s C minor epic completed in 1939 by his son-in-law Maximilian Steinberg – ambition. The finale, with its abundant counterpoint, feels long-winded despite the jolly third theme; but the rest flies thanks to the Russian players’ deftness – the patter and especially the triplet figures of the A major Adagioare always companionable.

César Cui’s miniature provides a pretty intermezzo, and what’s not to like about Borodin’s incomplete (finale-less) early trio of 1860? It’s pure bottled sunshine, like his later and more individual string quartets, and if Mendelssohn is the obvious model, especially in the ‘Romance’, that’s no bad thing. The biggest surprise comes last: what sounds like a genially heavy Austrian Ländler, the last completed movement is more reminiscent of a young Gustav Mahler. If the three players don’t always pull out the brilliant stops possible in the Rimsky-Korsakov, we get them throughout the Borodin.

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David Nice