Smetana , Suk, Nov‡k

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Novak,Smetana,Suk
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15. Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 2; Elegie, Op. 23. Trio quasi una ballata in D minor
PERFORMER: Joachim Trio
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553415
What an imaginative issue this is. Rather than going for the easy option of linking Smetana’s Trio in G minor with Dvorák’s ever-popular Dumky, the combination is Suk’s rarely heard Trio in C minor, and Novák’s marvellously sweeping single-movement Trio quasi una ballata. Smetana’s Trio, written to commemorate the death of his musical daughter, Bedriska, has the potential to be one of the most moving works in the chamber repertoire when in the right hands. The Joachim Trio is good at capturing the grand manner in the first movement and a pervasive sense of haunted desperation in the finale, but its treatment of the scherzo is problematic: the wistful outer sections are effective enough, but the second trio, the emotional heart of the work, is almost thrown off with clipped dotted rhythms and little sense of epic pathos. For the most complete experience of this remarkable trio, try the Guarneri Trio of Prague.

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The treatment of the shorter works on the disc is exemplary. The early Suk Trio in C minor offers many pointers towards his mature style, not least a pervasive tendency toward melancholy. The first movement is a touch constipated, but the slow movement is a lyric gem and the finale, with its irregular rhythms, quirkily original. The players have a real feel for its expressive qualities and they give an impressive rendition of the piano trio arrangement of the Elegy. They also provide a strikingly idiomatic performance of Novák’s splendid Trio in D minor commanding immediate attention in the snapped, Slovak rhythms of the opening. Apart from the slight problem in the Smetana, this is a highly recommendable issue. Jan Smaczny