Schubert: Piano Trios: No. 1 in B flat, D898; No. 2 in E flat, D929; Sonatensatz in B flat, D28; Notturno in E flat, D897

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Piano Trios: No. 1 in B flat, D898; No. 2 in E flat, D929; Sonatensatz in B flat, D28; Notturno in E flat, D897
PERFORMER: Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Frank Braley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 365 4762
There are performances that give intense pleasure, and performances that make you think. And, just occasionally, you encounter one that does both. The Braley-Capuçon-Capuçon Schubert First Trio is one of those. The playing is superb from just every angle you consider it: beguiling tone, lovely intelligent phrasing, strong but flexible rhythmic articulation, precise pitch and alert ensemble. There are moments when a melodic turn or texture almost stops you in your tracks: the piano and string tremolos in the finale – awkward in so many performances – are almost impossibly beautiful. At the same time Schubert’s transitions from section to section – again features that can sound clumsy in some hands – feel here like pure inspiration. Hear this performance and you might end up wondering how anyone could have criticised Schubert’s sense of form.

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There’s a similar feeling at the end of the Second Trio, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the climax of the slow movement built so powerfully and inevitably. There are plenty of fine local touches here as well; but putting this beside the Beaux Arts Trio’s much-loved 1966 version the latter has a confidential immediacy in the slow movement, coupled with a sense of mystery, which makes the French team feel a tiny bit reserved. But the Notturno is exquisite – a true romantic nocturne that looks forward to Chopin and more directly into the dream world of some the greatest songs. The recordings not only sound excellent, they balance the piano and the solo strings to something like perfection. Stephen Johnson