Saint-Saëns: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Saint-Sa‘ns
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Saint-Sa‘ns
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 1; Piano Trio No. 2
PERFORMER: Florestan Trio
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67538
These two works call for different approaches and different tone qualities. The E minor Trio of 1892 is in all respects a big work, and the Florestan Trio give it space and time to make its effects, helped by a warm, slightly bass-friendly acoustic. They also respond to the charm of the inner movements. The F major Trio of 1863 is an altogether lighter work, and here I miss the more treble-friendly acoustic of the Wanderer disc (on Harmonia Mundi), in which the piano figuration sparkles seductively. These artists also make the double-dotting in the Andante more nervously pointed. By contrast the Florestan interpretation is more relaxed as this Andante is the slowest movement in either Trio. I still prefer my double dots with added garlic!

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Susan Tomes of the Florestan Trio is more generous with her pedalling than her opposite number and there are moments, especially in the first movement of the E minor, where I should like a cleaner sound. Obviously this is a matter of taste. What is not is the Florestan’s wilful deviation from the score at two points in this Trio. Why, at the very end, begin the faster coda eight bars earlier than marked? And why, towards the end of the Scherzo, drastically shorten Saint-Saëns’s two-bar rest? In both cases surprise is reduced to predictability. Roger Nichols