Mendelssohn: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn
WORKS: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Wanderer Trio
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901961
Schumann hailed Mendelssohn’s D minor Piano Trio Op. 49 as ‘the master-trio of the age’ – and rightly so. This has always been a notoriously problematic medium in terms of instrumental balance and blend, and the miracle of Mendelssohn’s two trios (the second of them if anything even finer than the first) is that despite the weight and passionate nature of the music, the texture never gets clogged up. Appassionato, energico and agitato are the characteristic performance-directions found in their movement-headings, and no one could legitimately accuse the Wanderer Trio of failing to respond: these are full-blooded performances that leave the listener in no doubt as to the music’s fervour and urgency. With playing on this level of intensity, it’s probably not a good idea to listen to the two works at a single sitting.

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In the Wanderer Trio’s hands, the coda of the D minor Trio’s first movement is almost overwhelming in its driving energy; while the passionate nature of the playing

in the slow movement’s central episode nicely offsets the lyrical relaxation of the outer sections.

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The opening movement in the C minor companion-piece has a sweeping energy that seems to be invited by the wave-like rise and fall of its main subject, but at the same time the performance leaves room for a moment of mysterious relaxation in the central development section. There have been fine recordings of these pieces – not least, by the Florestan Trio (on Hyperion) and the Trio Paranassus (MDG) – but none that brings them more vividly to life.Misha Donat