SCHUMANN Trio No 1 DVOŘÁK Piano Trio No 4
There’s much to admire in the Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch’s interpretation of Schumann’s D minor Trio: the expressive shaping of trills and ornaments (especially from violinist Hagai Shaham), scintillating articulation and warm phrasing. And, of course, the work itself is astonishing in its brilliance – that sudden, spectral stillness at the centre of the first movement (where the strings play sul ponticello) never fails to take my breath away. Yet this performance doesn’t entirely satisfy. The outer movements require greater abandon – more Energie und Leidenschaft (energy and passion) and Feuer (fire) – while the slow movement is so sluggish it’s nearly impossible for the players to sustain their lines in the hushed tone Schumann demands. Turn instead to the 1958 recording by Gilels, Kogan and Rostropovich (DG) and, despite the constricted sound and odd instrumental balance, Schumann’s wild genius bounds from one’s speakers.
In Grieg’s recently rediscovered Andante (the slow movement of a projected trio), again, the trio play expressively. But this piece was written as a lament for the death of the composer’s daughter; and when one hears the obsessive, vertiginous character wrenched from the music by the Grieg Trio (Simax, 8/09), this new account, too, feels inadequate.
Happily, the Shaham Erez Wallfisch’s performance of Dvořák’s Dumky Trio is an utter delight – one of the best on record, in fact, which is saying a lot. Throughout, they have fun with the music and make the most of its soulfulness while always maintaining a tight rhythmic and structural grip. Listen to how they pounce on the down-beats of the first movement’s Allegro, allowing them to spring joyously from phrase to phrase. The dotted rhythms in the second dumka have an articulate expressivity that’s almost like speech, while the third deftly balances earthiness and delicacy. And in the finale, there’s light-hearted ferocity that, heard in concert, would surely bring down the house.
Nimbus’s recording places the listener close to the musicians, as if one had front-row seats in a small hall. If you have a soft spot for the Dumky Trio, this disc is worth your while, though its couplings are not nearly as delectable.