Dvorák Violin Concerto; Piano Trio Op 65
This is not the first disc to couple Dvorák’s lone violin concerto with one of his chamber works. Sarah Chang’s excellent version offers the Piano Quintet, while Isabelle Faust’s choice is the F minor Trio, which is even longer than the concerto.
In all three movements the new performance is markedly faster than Chang’s, particularly so in the first as Jirí Belohlávek and his fine Prague Philharmonia match the bite of Faust’s reading with an authentic Czech flavour. The curious structure, very different from traditional sonata form, brings a danger of it falling apart, but Faust and her collaborators never let the tension slip. Where Chang and Maxim Vengerov are more reflective, Faust’s reading has an element of steel in it.
In the central slow movement, Faust’s songful treatment of the lovely main theme highlights the folk element, and her brisk finale heightens its likeness to a Slavonic Dance. Chang is more relaxed, and Vengerov, recorded live, is more freely expressive. All three are compelling.
In the F minor Trio the partnership is one of equals. Indeed, with the balance tending to favour the piano, Alexander Melnikov often emerges as the leader in an attractively weighty performance. If this is marginally less refined than the Vienna Piano Trio’s splendid account on MDG (see page 68), it has a warmth and spontaneity that are most persuasive, not least when – as at the end of the finale – Dvorák indulges in speeds slower than the main Allegro. Here they sound as natural as in a live performance, and the pay-off is thrilling.
The concerto has seen a spate of recordings in recent years, but with vivid recording in the Rudolfinum in Prague, this intense version is one of the most distinctive.