Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; The Seasons (arr. Bekova Sisters)

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50; The Seasons (arr. Bekova Sisters)
PERFORMER: Bekova Sisters
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9719(2)
Tchaikovsky’s chamber music is a relatively neglected part of his canon. While sextets frequently perform the wonderful Souvenir de Florence, the string quartets have never quite caught on, and less so this piano trio. Inscribed ‘To the memory of a great artist’, it was written as a response to the death in 1881 of Tchaikovsky’s great champion and head of the Moscow Conservatoire Nikolai Rubinstein, and foreshadows some of the great gloomy, death-driven music of Tchaikovsky’s final years.

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One might have thought it a natural choice for the Bekova sisters, who studied at the same Moscow Conservatoire, but they have recorded many other trios before getting round to it. Better late than never. Their reading may not explore to the full the work’s emotional depths, but nonetheless displays well-crafted, heartfelt playing. The Bekovas are at their best in the exhilarating long final variation in the second movement, which renounces its fervent abandonment to end in an apocalyptic funeral march. Things might have been better left there. The Seasons gains little from the addition of a violin and cello in an arrangement and execution lacking confidence and conviction. By the end one’s only wish is to hear again the original piano version. Christopher Wood