Schubert: Piano Trio in E flat, D929

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Arts
WORKS: Piano Trio in E flat, D929
PERFORMER: Trio Italiano
CATALOGUE NO: 47554-2
Schubert instructed his publisher that ‘the cuts marked [in the E flat Piano Trio] are to be most strictly observed’. The abridgement of around 100 bars in the fourth movement may have arisen from its premiere at the composer’s private concert on 26 March 1828 (the first anniversary of Beethoven’s death). The uncut score was not printed until 1975. This disc offers the opportunity to hear the work either in its familiar format or in its original extended version.

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Schubert’s friend Leopold Sonnleithner wrote that ‘one cannot conceal that the trio has only gained in effect by the new experimental cuts’. However, among several available recordings of the trio in its uncut form, the one by Schiff, Shiokawa and Perényi makes the most persuasive case for returning to the composer’s first thoughts. Their genuinely Schubertian feeling in the Andante (recalling the funeral march from the Eroica Symphony) and the finale’s usually omitted reprise of the slow movement tune in marvellous counterpoint with the repeated-note theme underlines the work’s open homage to Beethoven. By contrast, the Trio Italiano takes a more straightforward approach, stressing this same music’s roots in Swedish folksong. And, although it plays the rest of the piece with impressive rhythmic verve and engaging style, the acoustics are dry and lacking in atmosphere.

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Schubert’s original conception includes some magical music. But, if listeners find Schubert’s ‘heavenly length’ too demanding, the Beaux Arts’ still remarkably fresh account of the Trio without the additional music remains a firm favourite. Nicholas Rast