Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
WORKS: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66
PERFORMER: Trio Parnassus
CATALOGUE NO: 303 1241-2
Of Mendelssohn’s two piano trios – the most beautifully scored pieces of their kind after Schubert – it’s the D minor earlier work that’s more familiar; but the C minor, with its striking atmosphere of subdued tension, is if anything even finer. Judging from the impassioned nature of their performance, the Trio Parnassus players value it very highly. There is immaculate attention to detail without ever losing sight of the sweep of the whole. It’s true that there have been other fine performances of this work: the Beaux Arts Trio, for instance (currently out of the catalogue, but surely due for reissue), finds even more mystery in the turbulent opening bars, and handles the finale’s chorale tune with greater expressiveness. The Beaux Arts benefits, too, from a recording that offers more clarity. Not that the Trio Parnassus has been poorly served by the engineers, but the actual recording venue is rather reverberant for the repertoire. In the D minor Trio honours are more evenly shared between the Parnassus and Beaux Arts Trios. The slow movement flows more naturally in the Parnassus’s hands and avoids the occasionally exaggerated expressiveness of the Beaux Arts; but the scherzo sounds rather scrambled and paradoxically less fast and light than the more deliberate, but clearer, account by the rival group. It has to be admitted, however, that not even the Trio Parnassus approaches Mendelssohn’s improbably fast metronome marking. All in all, if you want both these works on a single CD you’re unlikely to do better than this new version. Misha Donat