Brahms Piano Trios
Nicholas Angelich and the two Capuçons play in a way that’s sure to kindle anyone’s enthusiasm for Brahms. Warm, beautifully balanced tone stresses the composer’s romantic side, as does the expansive phrasing. There’s a feeling of spontaneity, too, as though each player is discovering new aspects to the music while recording it.
The character of the performances can, I think, best be illustrated by comparing them to the Florestan’s (whose full-price two-CD set also includes the trios with horn and clarinet). Whereas they persuade us that the right tempo for each movement, and the right character for each episode, has been found by thinking deeply about the music beforehand, this latest version seems more intuitive. Each movement takes a few seconds or perhaps half a minute longer than the corresponding Florestan version; in one case, the Op 87 Andante, the difference is more substantial – here the Florestan hit a tempo that feels just right for Andante con moto, but the slower Capuçon/Angelich performance finds more sharply differentiated characters for each variation.
Similarly, in Op 101’s Andante grazioso, the Florestan’s performance moves forward lightly and elegantly, while this account finds more space in which to produce a luminous sound and a sense of tranquillity. A deep sense of ease can also be found in the coda of Op 8’s first movement, and this lengthy piece is sustained as a whole by a natural ebb and flow and by finding a distinctive emotional tone for each episode – the second theme’s melancholy is expressed with especial persuasiveness. There are some places where it’s the Florestan that add an extra dimension – their brilliant, colourful account of Op 8’s Scherzo, and the urgent, agitated feeling that they bring to the finale of Op 101. But I’ll want to return regularly to the Capuçons and Angelich: the way they are able to strike a balance between Brahms’s energetic flow of ideas, his strongly delineated structures and his lyrical intensity is most