RAVEL; SAINT-SAËNS Piano Trios
The unusual item here is Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Trio of 1892, of which the Fidelio Trio give a performance of terrific impetus and refinement. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of inflating the opening movement – by far the longest of the five – since the busy, red-blooded piano accompaniment to the strings’ main theme can threaten to take on a life of its own. In terms of texture, though not by any means of thematic substance, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio, completed in 1882, comes to mind as a score that in realms of instrumental balance requires similarly careful thought. The Fidelio have done their thinking for the Saint-Saëns and the result is superb: you certainly know that the piano is working hard with all those arpeggios and rapid, keyboard-crossing chords, but the performance is all of a piece, with the violin and cello speaking with just as much authority and élan.
The whimsy of the second movement’s lopsided 5/8 rhythm is nicely etched in; the cello’s languid theme in the central Andante is beautifully done and finds a perfect match when the violin joins in. The lighthearted Grazioso fourth movement forms an emotional breather before Saint-Saëns returns in the finale to the mood of the opening movement with all his seriousness of craftsmanship and propulsive energy.
The Fidelio’s interpretation possesses admirable clarity and definition, polish and brio, qualities they bring also to a very different world of sound in the Ravel Trio. In both works their interpretative touch is secure, their rapport instinctive. Together with their eloquence and passion, this all adds up to something special.