SUK; DVOŘÁK; SMETANA Piano Trios
Did you know that Josef Suk composed a habanera? Well, neither did I and, in all probability, neither did he. And yet that’s exactly what the second movement of his appealing C minor Op 2 Trio sounds like, a gently swaying chamber morceau that wouldn’t be out of place in the cafés of Seville. The rest of the work more approximates the world of Suk’s future son in-law Dvořák and, most especially, his feted predecessor Smetana, the Trio’s finale sounding, at least initially, very much like the scherzo of Smetana’s great G minor. You can easily facilitate a comparison by switching from track 6 to track 9 on the present CD. Interesting too that the excellent Feininger Trio’s pianist, Adrian Oetiker, studied with that superb Liszt player Lazar Berman, because Liszt’s influence on Smetana is at its most obvious in the Trio’s impassioned first movement, which is where Oetiker excels. I doubt that Smetana ever composed a more seductive melody than the one that takes over soon after the Presto finale begins and the interpretation captured here has an appealingly meditative feel about it.
In fact all three performances on this well-engineered CD are profoundly musical, the Trio’s two string players both members of the Berlin Philharmonic and therefore used to achieving a warm tonal blend. Nice too that the programme’s centrepiece is one Dvořák’s less well-known trios, an effusively lyrical piece, composed in the year that also saw the completion of both Dvořák’s Piano Concerto and Smetana’s First Quartet, and graced with a Largo second movement that achieves its affectingly poetic atmosphere through the simplest means. The most obvious CD comparisons in all three works (though not on the same disc) are by the man to whose memory the present collection is dedicated, the violinist Josef Suk, his trio being among the finest in the second half of the 20th century. But even in spite of Suk’s gorgeous tone, the Feiningers easily hold their own; and, as the programme itself is sensibly planned as well as beautifully played, I am happy to award it a keen recommendation.