Schumann: Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor; Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47; Phantasiestücke, Op. 88

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor; Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47; Phantasiestücke, Op. 88
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio; Thomas Riebl (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67175
Of the three works recorded here, only the Op. 47 Piano Quartet could be called at all well known. Even so, it is much less familiar than – though in no sense inferior to – the Piano Quintet which immediately preceded it in Schumann’s ‘chamber music year’ of 1842. Also dating from 1842, at least in its original form, is a Piano Trio in A minor. Schumann later revised it and published it under the title of ‘Fantasy Pieces’, Op. 88. For all its modest proportions it is a score that contains some strikingly beautiful music, notably in its two slow movements. As for the last of Schumann’s three fully fledged piano trios, it has all but disappeared from the repertoire. True, it contains one or two weaknesses (the rather four-square second trio of the scherzo, for instance), but it is difficult to resist the surging passion of the opening movement, or the yearning ecstasy of the slow movement, with its rapturous melody unfolding above a ‘panting’ piano accompaniment.

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The Florestan Trio plays all these works with characteristic thoughtfulness and intelligence. Certainly, it is difficult to find fault with its performances, though perhaps in the last resort it is just a touch reserved. Emanuel Ax, Isaac Stern and co dispatch the Mendelssohnian scherzo of the Op. 47 Quartet with greater verve and brilliance, and they live that bit more dangerously in the finale. Their version still stands up very well; but this newcomer makes a valuable and highly enjoyable addition to the Schumann discography. Misha Donat