TCHIAKOVSKY; ARENSKY Piano Trios
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio set the example for Russian composers, perhaps with memories of Glinka’s Trio pathétique, of the medium as one charged with emotion and often elegiac, a tradition which extended down as far as Shostakovich. It was his friend and mentor Nikolai Rubinstein for whom Tchaikovsky was grieving, deeply enough for him to overcome his previous resistance to combining piano and strings. He did not make matters easy for his interpreters, with crashing eight-note chords in the piano and other difficulties, ones which the admirable Trio Wanderer deal with partly by toning down the forte markings intelligently. The pianist, Vincent Coq, is both brilliant and sensitive, taking great trouble over balance with the strings while dazzling the ear with his lightly scintillating virtuosity in the more sparkling variation movements. The ‘musical box’ variation tinkles along merrily and glides into one of Tchaikovsky’s most elegant waltzes, which, the players are careful to remind us, attaches itself to the Russian ballet world and not that of the Viennese ballroom. They deal well with the protracted final fugue, accepting the cuts offered by the composer, nervous of outstaying his welcome.
Arensky, unkindly dismissed by his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov as doomed to oblivion, has survived partly thanks to his own fine Trio, in memory of the cellist Karl Davydov. The Adagio is a touching elegy, gently expressed in this performance, and if the Scherzo, in debt to Mendelssohn as well as Tchaikovsky, is slightly repetitious of its main idea, playing as skilful as this presents it in its most attractive light.