Schubert: Piano Trio in E flat, D929

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio in E flat, D929
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67347
After the Florestan’s recording of Schubert’s First Piano Trio in B flat, the ensemble has at last released its eagerly awaited performance of the great E flat Trio, written in the final months of Schubert’s last year. The obvious benchmark candidate is the classic later performance (Philips) of the Beaux Arts Trio (though, among younger performers, I also have a soft spot for the 1999 ASV recording from the Schubert Ensemble of London). And those wedded to the performance on the Beaux Arts’ double disc, appearing with the Grumiaux’s string trios, will certainly find divorce very difficult.

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But, where the Beaux Arts confidently presents a triumphant performance of an established masterwork, the Florestan is eavesdropped upon, still discovering the fact, and with constantly surprised delight. And the players’ clarity of vision in the long first movement doesn’t prohibit their ability, through the subtlest of details of breath, balance and tone of voice, to create a sense of constant search and enquiry.

The piano-playing of Susan Tomes is more than a match for the twinkling fingers of Menahem Pressler. And her even more finely variegated palette of colour is quite wonderfully tuned to the voice of Richard Lester’s cello: in the opening of the slow movement, for instance, where nervous pulse fuses with steady, resigned footfall to create something at the very heart of Schubert; and where its song miraculously returns in the finale.

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This disc offers both versions of the finale, cut and uncut. I’d always go for the former; but who could resist the choice, and any bonus time for either Schubert or the Florestan? Hilary Finch