Dvorak, Mendelssohn: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (Dumky)

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Mendelssohn
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49; Piano Trio in E minor, Op. 90 (Dumky)
PERFORMER: Beaux Arts Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 61492-2
To tread the concert boards as a chamber musician for more than 50 years and retain a universally acknowledged mastery is extraordinary. Such is 81-year-old pianist Menahem Pressler’s achievement as the remarkable anchorman of the Beaux Arts Trio. The ensemble itself has a formidable legacy of recordings, albeit with several changes of personnel in the strings. In its most recent formation, Pressler has joined forces with two extremely fine younger players, and fittingly this warmly recorded release replicates the repertoire that was featured on the group’s very first LP way back in 1954. Although it would be idle to pretend that Pressler’s fingerwork and control of textures are quite as nimble or as fluid as in his three earlier recordings of the Mendelssohn D minor, this performance offers some compensations, most notably in the unusually weighty, even Beethovenian, conception of the outer movements. The Andante con moto, on the other hand, is a little too stolid for my liking, though the players steadfastly resist the temptation to over- sentimentalise Mendelssohn’s simply constructed melodies. The Dvorák presents fewer technical challenges for the pianist, and accordingly Pressler’s sound is more relaxed and varied, while his articulation has greater clarity. Some might argue that the performance is a little indulgent, with exaggerated rubatos and contrasts of tempo. But Pressler responds most creatively to the unbuttoned folk-like sounds of Daniel Hope’s fiddle and the passionate declamations from cellist Antonio Meneses. Not surprisingly there’s plenty of competition in the current catalogue for these two popular works, not least from the Beaux Arts’s own recordings. Given its spontaneity and imagination this new Dvorák certainly deserves a place among the front-runners, though in both works the Vienna Piano Trio on Nimbus provides performances of greater musical satisfaction, combining impeccable technical command with a marvellous warmth of tone. Erik Levi