Schubert: Piano Trio in E flat, D929; Notturno in E flat, D897

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Vanguard
WORKS: Piano Trio in E flat, D929; Notturno in E flat, D897
PERFORMER: Altenberg Trio, Vienna
The unabridged form of Schubert’s E flat Piano Trio has been getting a lot of attention lately. The Trio Italiano’s account (reviewed in October) fails to match the persuasive sparkle and genuine Schubertian feeling of the superb version by Shiokawa, Perényi and Schiff. This latest release from the Vienna-based Altenberg Trio presents a performance that, if anything, possesses even greater energy and executant brilliance.


The Altenberg’s impressively accurate live rendering bears all the imprints of the public occasion, most notably a strong forward impetus and potent expressive extremes. However, the brightly-lit Salzburg acoustic creates a rather harsh edge at the loudest dynamic levels, giving the fortissimo chords a splashy quality.

The Trio’s enthusiasm for research led to its decision to offer Schubert’s Trio in its original uncut version, and it plays with an evident idiomatic sensitivity for the music. But the balance of tempi between the slow movement (played faster and with less atmosphere than by Shiokawa, Perényi and Schiff) and the finale less effectively resolves the score’s debt to folksong and homage to Beethoven. The gentle pace the players give to the scherzo, moreover, sounds oddly lifeless.


I have similar reservations about the Altenberg Trio’s interpretation of the Notturno. A more relaxed speed would allow more time to savour its tonal sensitivity in the slow music and increase the dramatic impact of the livelier passages. Nicholas Rast