Schubert: Piano Trio in B flat, D898: Piano Trio in E flat, D929

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Trio in B flat, D898: Piano Trio in E flat, D929
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano), Pinchas Zukerman (violin), Lynn Harrell (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 455 685-2
Schiff’s partnership here is not always equitable. Shiokawa produces a feathery, crystalline tone, often a joy to hear and ideally suited to the less resonant Viennese fortepianos of Schubert’s day, but tantalisingly under-powered beside Schiff’s weightier utterances. Perényi sounds gorgeous, especially in the radiant Andante of the B flat Trio and throughout his impressive account of the Arpeggione Sonata. Yet the ominous undertow of the E flat Trio’s Andante seems strangely unthreatening: neither Perényi nor Schiff fully explores the death-pallor of its tragic main idea. Important developmental passages in the finale (Schubert having sanctioned ill-advised cuts before publication) are rightfully restored here, and this team coaxes back the Andante’s theme quite magically when it reappears in the coda. Meticulously prepared, if lightweight, performances, but András Schiff’s guiding contributions are masterful.

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Ashkenazy, Zukerman and Harrell are robust and incisive, but bring no palpable adrenalin surge to the B flat Trio’s opening Allegro moderato. At over 15 minutes, it’s spaciously proportioned, so Harrell’s simpering feline dawdle into the second group only impedes musical flow. Ashkenazy is generally superb (bringing spring-coiled rhythmic energy to the Scherzo) but sounds over-upholstered and corpulent in dialogue with Harrell. Both Andante themes (announced by the cello) are stodgily phrased beside the Beaux Arts’s Pressler and Greenhouse. Zukerman (in top form) combines verve with songful ease in both works. Despite their obvious strengths, these newcomers won’t displace established catalogue recommendations, so keep faith with the Beaux Arts’s Philips recordings if you have them. Alternatively, period-instrument realisations by the Mozartean Players on Harmonia Mundi are occasionally provocative, but always revelatory.