Brahms: Complete Piano Trios

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Complete Piano Trios
PERFORMER: Trio Wanderer
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901915-16
This is some of the most elegant playing I have ever heard in Brahms’s chamber music. It often seems that whole sections, or even whole movements unfold as a continuous melodic line: soaring, floating, musing quietly, but always with lyricism to the foremost. That’s as true of pianist Vincent Coq’s liquid running figures in the finale of the Quartet, Op. 25, as of the great sweeping tunes in the first movement of Op. 101 and the Scherzo trio of Op. 8 – the latter in particular is a real spine-tingler in Trio Wanderer’s version. While there’s plenty of subtle shading

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along the way, it’s the evolving line that holds the attention. The Wanderers are a finely balanced ensemble – which the recording captures faithfully with much warmth and clarity of tone.

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So why not the full five performance stars? Well, although there are many things here that I would enjoy in concert, and would be happy to hear again on disc, there’s an important quality which for me is only there intermittently – the close dialogue between the voices that is crucial to true chamber music. Listen to Augustin Dumay, Jian Wang and Maria João Pires (DG) and you’ll find an almost continuous sense of inner conversation – subtle differences of tone on almost identical figures that suggest intimate exchanges. Here the effect is almost orchestral: magnificent musical arguments, finely coloured, but as an overall sound relatively homogenized. Also, shouldn’t there be at least a hint of ruggedness amidst the lyricism? Superb playing, but a little too suavely beautiful to make top recommendation. Stephen Johnson