Schubert: Piano Trio in B flat, D898; Notturno in E flat, D897; Piano Trio Movement in B flat, D28

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio in B flat, D898; Notturno in E flat, D897; Piano Trio Movement in B flat, D28
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio
Is there a better trio than the Florestan playing today? All three members are consummate artists, outstanding instrumentalists, and ensemble players to the manner born, but it’s the playing of pianist Susan Tomes that carries these performances to their greatest heights. Since the ensemble is perfectly judged by all concerned, it may seem unjust to single out the playing of one member for special comment, but such is the extreme sophistication, the extraordinary subtlety and the expressive range


of this artist that I can see no alternative. The tonal control, the exquisite shaping of phrases, the rhythmical suppleness and structural backbone are of an order seldom encountered in the playing even of many famous soloists. But what renders her playing here still more remarkable is the exemplary precision with which it’s matched to the different sonorities and qualities of attack, so-called, of the string players. And what players they are. For all of the above this is not a pianist-dominated performance, except insofar as Schubert wrote the piece that way. In pure lyricism it’s surpassed only, perhaps, by Cortot-Thibaud-Casals back in 1926, except in the third movement, which doesn’t quite dance enough (too great an equality of beats). There will be some, though, for whom the performance may lack a certain immediacy of impact where the darker, even anguished side of Schubert is concerned – a certain toughness, even. This comes through better in the rather more rugged 1964 recording by Stern-Istomin-Rose on Sony, which can be recommended as an alternative but not as a preference. Jeremy Siepmann