ZEMLINSKY; BLOCH; KORNGOLD Piano Trios
Strange engineering dogs these performances. Flanking the piano in the middle are the strings, each at an extreme end; and all instruments appear to be separately miked, offering little feel of a cohesive group in a single credible acoustic. Cello at right is backwardly balanced, its innate warmth curtailed. Violin at left has a squeezed sound bordering on harshness when strenuously bowed.
Thus you hear only partially an emotional compass the musicians are striving to convey. Zemlinsky’s Trio was originally written for clarinet, with an alternative violin transposition included at the behest of the publisher Simrock. It ‘reflects a spiritual and stylistic debt to Brahms’ (Antony Beaumont) but has a rhetoric of its own which the Pacific Trio sense. Yet their understanding is compromised by the recording, less so though in the Andante, where their feeling for lyricism is better presented.
Not as tightly structured but of a harmonically amazing intrepidity for a 12-year-old is Korngold’s Trio. This group’s playing suggests discomfort with its discursive character, though granted that impression may be due to squashed dynamics and restricted sound. The Beaux Arts Trio are in finer control yet adroit in performance and the venue is more expansively captured; but their cellist is reticently placed too. Perhaps the best of the Pacific emerges in Bloch’s Nocturnes, very evocatively played, and the acoustic here isn’t as seriously obtrusive.