Saint-Saëns: Piano Trio No. 1 in F, Op. 18; Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Sa‘ns Piano Trios
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1 in F, Op. 18; Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92
PERFORMER: Trio Wanderer
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901862
Perhaps Saint-Saëns’s dapper appearance has had something to do with it – that and the infallibly ‘well-made’ surface of his music. Play it politely and all you tend to get back is polite applause. The Trio Wanderer feel this music otherwise and the result is entirely splendid.

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Speed has a role to play. Trio Wanderer take every one of the nine movements faster than do the Joachim Trio on Naxos. Saint-Saëns, after all, was a virtuoso pianist with a corner in brilliance and sparkle, and Trio Wanderer’s Vincent Coq throws off the cascades of scales and arpeggios with nonchalant élan, aided by a rather less resonant acoustic than that of the Conway Hall, which at times blurs the Joachim Trio’s textures.

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The Wanderers are also a touch bolder in their phrasing, adding intelligently to the composer’s somewhat parsimonious markings, and I approve the violinist’s generous use of portamento, very much of the place and period. If you add in the Joachim Trio’s occasional lengthening of pauses before a new paragraph, which I find disruptive, and just one moment in the Finale of the First Trio where their otherwise admirable pianist, John Lenehan, rushes slightly, then the Wanderer Trio bring home the crown in these two wonderfully strong, witty and inventive pieces. Roger Nichols