DVOŘÁK Piano Trio No 3 SMETANA Piano Trio Op 15 SUK Elegy
Smetana’s G minor Trio has one of the grandest openings in the entire piano trio repertoire, its Lisztian axis much underlined by the Feininger Trio, whose recording, like the one under review, is coupled with piano trios by Dvořák and Josef Suk. The two performances are quite unalike, the Feiningers centring more on rhetoric, the Sitkovetsky Trio on intimacy: note, for example, pianist Wu Qian’s winning lilt in the second-movement Allegro. Both here and in the finale the trio’s string-players – violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich – make the very most of Smetana’s luscious melodies, ‘earworms’ of the first order. Theirs is a class act and whether you opt for them may well be down to their choice of couplings.
The Sitkovetsky Trio choose Suk’s moving Elegy of 1902, composed as a memorial tribute for the author Julius Zeyer, whereas the Feininger Trio treat us to the more substantial Piano Trio in C minor, Op 2. They also select as their programme centrepiece one of Dvořák’s less familiar trios, No 2 in G minor, whereas the Sitkovetskys tackle the finest of the trios, No 3 in F minor, Op 65, a work that, with its sizeable structure and volatile emotional language, levels with the most imposing of the symphonies. Here a viable comparison is on Harmonia Mundi with violinist Isabelle Faust, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexander Melnikov, more keenly inflected and at times more sonorous than the Sitkovetskys, who, as in the Smetana, favour a more reserved manner of dialogue. Be sure not to dismiss the Suk Trio’s Dvořák (Supraphon) from the running. They are in a class of their own; but the present release is excellent and the sound quality is first-rate.