Rautio Piano Trio: Beethoven, Hiller, Schubert
The Rautio Piano Trio played Mozart on period instruments for their Resonus debut (9/16). Here, in a programme of Beethoven, Hiller and Schubert, they employ modern instruments, although these new interpretations display strikingly similar qualities of classical poise, deftness and textural clarity. The Rautio’s approach is a godsend in Ferdinand Hiller’s Sixth Trio (1879), as their seemingly unflappable grace helps mitigate the music’s rather prosaic rhetoric. His vaguely Schumannesque melodies are unmemorable and often appear to be developed in a manner akin to pure rote. Nevertheless, Hiller was a significant musical figure in his day, and this premiere recording of the Trio is worth a listen even if the music itself has little of the charm or imaginativeness one finds in the works of, say, Reinecke, Rheinberger or Herzogenberg.
The Rautio’s delicate, easy-flowing performance of Schubert’s Notturno is lovely, if not quite as magically rapt as the version by Frank Braley and the Capuçon brothers (Erato, 6/07). There are delights in Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, too – at the end of the first-movement exposition (starting at 1'13"), for instance, where the players seem to be scurrying nimbly on tiptoe, and in the elegantly effervescent finale. At times, however, the performance is simply too tidy, as if the Rautio set out to smooth over the music’s wrinkles and furrows. The famously eerie Largo, for example, is fleet and crisp, generating visceral excitement but failing to capture the movement’s peculiar sense of emotional agitation and unease.
The Trio Isimsiz are punctilious, too, but in a starkly different way; where the Rautio draw with an extra-fine nib, the Isimsiz etch in bold lines. They take the Largo of the Ghost Trio at a relatively glacial pace, turning the many arpeggios and runs into icy, jagged figures. There are a few faint glimmers of warmth in the frosty gloom they evoke, but the overall effect is aptly chilling.
In Brahms’s C minor Trio the Isimsiz are impressively single-minded. They seize upon the music’s choppy phraseology, creating an unexpected tension between the grand, granitic textures and gasping disquiet of the melodies themselves. The players have a lighter touch where it’s required, mind you – note the grazioso svelteness of both the Scherzo and the intermezzo-like third movement – but the feeling of breathlessness is almost always inescapable.
The Ensemble Kai find an aching nostalgia in their 1993 BIS recording of Tōru Takemitsu’s Between Tides, with strong echoes of Ravel and Messiaen; the Trio Isimsiz make it sound considerably more modern. In the Isimsiz’s hands, the melodic fragments fit together like an exquisite mosaic, and the listener feels one’s way across its glistening, mesmeric surface.
All in all, this is an outstanding debut disc by the Trio Isimsiz, whose unusually thoughtful interpretations are presented with dazzling technical mastery.