SCHUBERT Piano Trios (Trio Vitruvi)
This debut recording by the Trio Vitruvi leaves me frankly perplexed. On the one hand, I’m impressed by these young Danish players’ patience. Tempos are relaxed yet somehow held taut – despite some occasional stodginess in the finale. On the other hand, they’re rock steady to a fault. There’s never the feeling they’re pushing forwards in excitement or pulling back to savour a moment. I like the easy swing they give to the opening Allegro, yet with so little give and take it soon becomes monotonous.
The Vitruvi’s ensemble and intonation are virtually faultless and their punctilious articulation is admirable. Every note speaks so clearly – even the cello’s crazed demi-semiquaver triplets in the central climax of the Andante (at 4'38") – that if my ears were good enough, I’d probably be able to write the whole score out with this recording as my only guide. But, again, there’s an evenness and regularity that becomes wearing. Their sound is beautiful, certainly, but chiselled and coolly marmoreal. Compare, say, the playful way Frank Braley and the Capuçon brothers shape the work’s opening phrases with the Vitruvi’s square sobriety.
There’s one aspect of the score I wouldn’t be able to notate from this performance, and that’s the dynamic markings. Much of the Scherzo is meant to be played piano or pianissimo, for instance, yet the Vitruvi rarely venture below a hearty mezzo-forte. The matter is not always necessarily one of volume, really, but of emotion and atmosphere. The Vitruvi play the ravishing Notturno prettily enough but their cool insistence on clarity and steadiness bring it perilously close to salon music. In Braley and the Capuçons’ rapt account, it’s pure magic.
The Vitruvi have a lot to offer, I’m sure of that. Hopefully their next recording will convey the flexibility and fire I’ve seen in YouTube videos of their live performances.