Schumann: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63; Piano Trio in F, Op. 80

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WORKS: Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63; Piano Trio in F, Op. 80
PERFORMER: Vienna Brahms Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553836
The description ‘Romantic’ could have been invented for the first movement of the D minor Trio, with its turbulent beginning and more tender second subject, both of which need the utmost flexibility from the performers. The Vienna Brahms Trio goes with the ebb and flow in exemplary fashion, holding back and pushing forward together with the natural contour of the music, and there’s a similar care over the grading of dynamics and the shaping of phrasing. In many ways these are old-fashioned performances: certainly the big, masculine sound of the violinist, and his willingness to use portamento, hark back to an older tradition than that employed in the fine recent recording by the Florestan Trio. That’s not to say that neither he nor the cellist can play quietly: they produce a beautifully withdrawn tone in the slow movements of both trios, but there’s always an absolute centre to the sound. Other details that stand out are the verve and spring in the scherzo second movement of the D minor Trio, and the energy in the finale – this really is ‘Mit Feuer’, as Schumann’s direction demands. Then there’s the transition between the expressive slow movement in the F major Trio and the languid almost-waltz that follows – not only is the tempo relationship between the two movements exactly right, but the space separating them is a perfect long breath. The Florestan enjoys better piano recording, but it’s a close-run thing, and I marginally prefer these new versions for their absolute unanimity of purpose and coherence of sound.