SCHUMANN Piano Concerto. Piano Trio No 2
Melnikov, Faust and Queyras continue their series of Schumann’s concertos and piano trios with the Piano Concerto and the second of the three trios, the former among the most-performed of 19th-century concertos, the latter perhaps less often heard than its two sister works. As with the previous instalment (Faust in the Violin Concerto; the late Third Trio – 3/15), period instruments and styles are deployed, in the case of the concerto an 1837 Erard piano – naturally a lighter instrument than the modern behemoths on which this music is most usually heard these days, and one which thus matches the sonorities of the Freiburg Baroque players more closely. Melnikov is able to ripple along as part of an ensemble when providing accompaniment to orchestral lines, rather than dominating as a Steinway might, although the instrument can still roar when called upon to do so. And the duetting with the woodwinds is a particular delight – for example with the clarinet and oboe in the first movement’s major-key exposition of the theme (from 2'27"), although the clarinet might have been spotlit in the mix with a touch more presence.
After the light-footed intermezzo, some may cavil at the moderate tempo taken for the finale. However, when played, as here, with Melnikov’s imagination, the effect is not only to reveal the ingenious construction and orchestration of the work but also – given the swing that he and Heras-Casado impart to it – to show how closely it is related to the galumphing polonaise that closes the Violin Concerto. Repeated listening has persuaded me that this is a valid alternative to the glittering virtuosity displayed by pianists from Lipatti to Andsnes and beyond.
The Second Piano Trio too responds well to the period-instrument treatment, its opening movement bounding along with intriguing shading from Faust and Queyras, the slow movement warm but unindulgent, the sighing Scherzo betraying its affinity to the same movement of Schubert’s E flat Trio. Schumann said that the Second Trio ‘makes a friendlier and more immediate impression’ than the First and the finale demonstrates this, its playful and generous melodic outpouring clearly enjoyed to the full by these three players.