LABELS: Winter & Winter
WORKS: Piano Trio in B flat, D898; Notturno, D897
PERFORMER: La Gaia Scienza
CATALOGUE NO: Basic Edition 910 017-2
Like many of Schubert’s late instrumental compositions, the B flat Piano Trio (written in 1828) enshrines a tension between dramatic and lyrical elements. The Beaux Arts Trio vividly portrays these characteristics in its classic 1966 recording of the piece. It balances the first movement’s exuberant energy and fabulous harmonic colours perfectly, and all three instrumentalists produce ravishing tone in a heartfelt account of the Andante. Satisfyingly neat precision in the scherzo contrasts with beautifully phrased solos from violin and cello in the trio, and the finale unfolds with an engaging lightness of touch. Breathtaking dynamic control and a very slow pulse in the Notturno (originally intended as the slow movement) creates a reflective calm that naturally evolves into triumphant mood with the second theme.
La Gaia Scienza’s new release presents an equally desirable period-instrument alternative. The Graf fortepiano may be unable to match the sustaining potential of the modern piano and the strings may lack the power of their present-day counterparts, but this disc offers wonderful compensations. In general, it is the exploitation of the distinctive tonal characteristics of their instruments that gives La Gaia Scienza’s playing particular appeal, projecting the expressive clarity of individual lines in different textural contexts. Intelligently chosen tempi help. Sample the slow movements, where a lively pace generates increased agitation in the middle section of the Andante and more sparkle in the Notturno’s triplets. With excellent sound this recording is likely to make converts among those not normally drawn to period-instrument versions of this repertoire. Nicholas Rast