RAVEL; CHAUSSON Piano Trios (Vienna Piano Trio)
The Vienna Piano Trio already have a live recording of Ravel’s masterpiece in their portfolio (also for MDG, from 2011). But their latest venture adds finesse, maturity and lucidity, as well as warmer recording, to an already finely honed interpretation. There is a great sense of architecture within each movement, without detriment to the all important mercurial atmosphere. This is particularly the case for the third-movement Passacaille, where they sustain a long line, helped by a more flowing tempo than, say, the scarcely less fine Beaux Arts. The latter offer more of a contemplation, compared to the Vienna Trio’s persistent walk against wind and snowstorm.
The same kind of flow, supporting passionate outbursts, gives the first movement a more natural dancelike lilt, where the Beaux Arts allow a little more breathing space within each phrase for the magic of the harmony to be fully absorbed. Even better at conveying the movement’s shimmering fluidity are the Capuçons and Braley, though some may find them at times excessively enthusiastic. In the assez vif ‘Pantoum’ second movement, preferences might easily go another way, since there is a greater responsiveness and edginess in both the Beaux Arts and, in particular, the Capuçon/Braley accounts, while the Vienna Trio instead allow each player to enunciate the theme clearly before handing it over to the next. All in all, honours even.
With its dense textures and heightened drama, Chausson’s Franck-inspired Trio makes a great pairing. There are some breathtakingly lyrical moments in the violin and cello here, and the rich piano figuration never feels laboured. Again, there is a more unified approach to each movement compared to the Beaux Arts with their coaxing rubatos. The Vienna Trio’s forward drive is particularly welcome in the slow movement, where a more static approach to the elaborate thematic developments can easily bring the music to a virtual standstill, as is the danger with the Wanderer Trio, who clock in a whole minute slower. The stormy finale avoids slipping into a frenetic whirlpool and the return of the opening material is cherished with a noble sense of resignation that makes for a moving conclusion to a finely played and recorded disc.