Schumann: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 110; Phantasiestücke, Op. 88; Six Pieces in Canonic Form, Op. 56

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 110; Phantasiestücke, Op. 88; Six Pieces in Canonic Form, Op. 56
PERFORMER: Vienna Brahms Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553837
Schumann’s Piano Trios in D minor (Op. 63) and F (Op. 80) date from 1847 – the aftermath of his Second Symphony and, as he freely acknowledged, ‘a time of gloomy moods’ that already prefigured tragic collapse. Their successor, Op. 110, and the Op. 88 Phantasiestücke of 1851 (also recorded here), bring limited relief from deep-rooted pessimism, but there are lighter touches in the canonic studies, for pedal-piano, written after Schumann’s nervous breakdown of 1844.

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These fine accounts from the Vienna Brahms Trio are engagingly atmospheric and thoroughly alert to the fleetingly capricious mood-swings of Schumann’s art. These players espouse a much more intimate, almost covert view of the music, particularly in Op. 110, than we’ve come to expect already from the Florestan Trio’s Hyperion readings of Trios Nos 1 and 2. The Florestan, incidentally, has now duplicated the works on this Naxos CD, though the Op. 88 Studies are replaced by the E flat Piano Quartet, Op. 47. Its Hyperion disc awaits release at the time of writing, but it would be hard to imagine it bettering this exemplary bargain offering, while Op. 47 has been widely surveyed on disc already.

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Despite Andrew Keener’s beautiful Henry Wood Hall productions for the Florestan, the Vienna Brahms Trio penetrates the urgent, haunted ethos of this music with consistent expertise and telling impact. And at the price, you can have both its Naxos discs, encompassing Schumann’s entire oeuvre for piano trio, for less than one of the Florestan’s Hyperion CDs, and performances of this calibre are rare indeed. Recommended. Michael Jameson