WORKS: Rachmaninov: Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor; Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50
PERFORMER: Lang Lang (piano), Vadim Repin (violin), Mischa Maisky (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 8099
Beyond a formidable technique which can now be taken for granted, you never know what to expect from Chinese pianist Lang Lang. I found his Chopin Second Piano Concerto at this year’s BBC Proms horribly unmusical, phrases tugged out of shape and smothered in fussiness. Here he’s on much firmer ground, starting out as support to cellist Mischa Maisky’s perhaps over-passionate opening phrase in the Tchaikovsky, underpinning both string players’ full and focused exuberance in the long but here unusually convincing variation-finale of the second movement. He also turns in unsurpassably scintillating transcendentalism and mazurka charm in two of the variations where Tchaikovsky pays homage to the virtuosity of his Trio’s late dedicatee, the pianist Nikolay Rubinstein.
Yet the second-movement theme does show traces of Lang Langesque over-interpretation – less would surely be more in this simple melody – and the more victorious strains amid the laments of its vast, here sometimes overstretched predecessor are impersonal. As for teamwork, it’s clear that the superlative violinist Vadim Repin is top of the tree in more ways than one; has any violinist managed a more lustrous fortissimo in Tchaikovsky’s fourth variation?
Any introspection we might miss here is to be found in the Kempf Trio’s rather more programmatic, and therefore characterised, interpretation on BIS (CD-1302). They, too, included the first and shorter of Rachmaninov’s ‘elegiac’ trios, composed before Tchaikovsky’s death but paying homage with a quotation from the Manfred Symphony, the only point in either of these performances where Maisky and Repin could be more emphatic.
The recorded sound, capturing majestic confidence from all three musicians as Tchaikovsky’s lament makes its climactic reappearance, is a joy throughout. David Nice