Mendelssohn: Piano Trios in C minor, Op. 66 & in D minor, Op. 49

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: Piano Trios in C minor, Op. 66 & in D minor, Op. 49
PERFORMER: Benvenue Fortepiano Trio
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2187

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Mendelssohn’s conception of the piano trio medium might be expressed mathematically: in the whole of the D minor Trio the piano has just two bars’ rest, in the C minor as many as three.

One of those in the D minor introduces the recapitulation, so may be considered structural, but otherwise Mendelssohn could appear not to think the two string instruments safe to be let out on their own. The danger is that the piano’s continuous figuration can come to sound fussy, even obscurantist, taking attention away from the more lyrical elements. 

It is in no way to be critical of the pianist, who plays with commendable precision and brio, that on this 1841 Viennese fortepiano the problem is if anything emphasised owing to its relatively restricted dynamic range. Low bass octaves also tend to growl menacingly in unsuitable places and in active moments the tenor area can become fuzzy.

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For my taste he indulges a little too freely in rubato in the slow movement of the D minor but elsewhere the music is allowed to flow naturally, with rubato only at moments of surprise or important cadences. Tempos are convincing and the string tone is sweet (Dutch violin c1770, English cello of 1811), even if the cellist is slightly drowned at times (a perpetual hazard of the medium). Roger Nichols