Piano Trios, Vol. 1: Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat, D898; 12 Valses nobles, D969 (arr. Zellner); Notturno in E flat, D897
Gould Piano Trio
Resonus RES 10289 61:05 mins
Designed for a Viennese drawing room, Schubert’s chamber music offers exquisite melodies clothed in multicoloured harmonies and varied textures. The Gould Piano Trio offers congenial and relaxed accounts with unhurried tempos and precarious harmonic corners taken with care and thought. Only occasional darkness clouds this performance, and the spiky angularity audible in other recordings is absent.
The vast, 40-minute Trio in B flat major is a sunny opening. The second movement lilts charmingly, honouring Schubert’s direction Andante un poco mosso. The elegant Scherzo matches the mood of the closing Rondo. Perhaps the performance is a touch too tranquil; the musicians’ approach captures the Biedermeier spirit of this music, but the occasional rough, subversive edge would show Schubert’s radicalism more.
The inclusion of Julius Zellner’s 1871 arrangements of the Valses nobles is inspired. These delightful dancing pieces sustain the recital’s theme of (occasionally boisterous) sociability. The Notturno, a substantial and profound work (published posthumously), provides a reflective close to the recital. Frith’s piano playing is outstanding here, delicate in the upper ranges and resonant in the bass.
There is immaculate attention to detail of articulation, as well as a generally warm, silken sound. Overall, the recording offers a welcome insight into Schubert’s musical world in the final years of his short life – small-scale and sociable, private and profoundly expressive.