Schubert: Piano Trios - Guarneri Trio Prague
Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 250 201
Classical - Chamber
Schubert: Piano Trio in B flat major Op. 99 D. 898, Piano Trio in E flat major Op. 100 D. 929
Guarneri Trio Prague
These ‘twin brothers’ from the final period offer two portraits of the composer of Winterreise; one is meant to be radiant and convivial, the other is that of the solitary walker, wandering amidst his memories, sometimes those of Schubertiads, where he was the driving force, accompanying singers or musicians in timeless evenings of friendship.
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Review by Mark Novak - March 28, 2010
Today was a Schubert kind of day. I pulled this SACD off the shelf and gave it a spin. I haven't heard it for a few years and my memory of it was not all that positive. Surprise! I really enjoyed this one. The fact that both of these trios are accomodated on one 78:48 long SACD suggests that either the tempos adopted are quite fast or that repeats are dispensed with (or both). I can say that, for the most part, tempos are just fine (i.e. I hear no undue rushing in any of the movements). Hence, I conclude that repeats normally taken in performance have been dropped. This is fine by me for such familiar works. After all, the purpose of repeats was to ingrain the music to listeners hearing it for the first time by reprising something that came before. Now that these masterworks are so well known, why bother with the repeats unless they are needed to create weight or balance in a movement?
The performances are solid and elegant. The Guarneri Trio avoids hystrionics but at the same time they are never boring. As a result, they are not the most dynamic performances one will hear but this music can take many different viewpoints and still make its grandness felt. There is no question that all three players share the same sensibilities because the ensemble playing is magnificent. This trio has been playing together for 24 years and it shows. While I mentioned earlier that tempos are generally not too fast, the one exception is in the Rondo finale of the E-flate trio where the opening allegro moderato is taken at a fairly swift pace, somewhat lessening the impact of the music. It's not a big thing, really, but they could have squeezed just a bit more juice from the fruit here.
Sonically this is also a very good recording. I listen in stereo with surround synthesized by an AVR so the fact that this SACD doesn't possess native 5.1 multichannel tracks makes no nevermind for me. What I hear is a faithful reproduction of a piano trio recorded in a slightly resonant space (Domovina studio, Prague). The string timbres are true, the piano is properly percussive with plenty of low end heft and the soundstaging creates a realistic picture of a trio in performance. A slight annoyance for me is the audible breathing of the cellist. I have recently complained about another recording from this same studio done several years later (Haydn Quartets Op.33) where I can also hear the breathing/gasps of at least one of the quartet players but which is much more disconcerting than in this trio recording because the quartet sonics are bathed in this huge resonant haze creating simultaneously close-up and far-away sounds pictures. Here, because the piano trio recording does not have that big reverberation, the sonic picture is more credible - hearing the breathing just makes more sense because the soundstage is fully consistent and close-up. Recommended.
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