Röntgen: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 - Storioni Trio
Ars Produktion ARS 38 072
Classical - Chamber
Julius Röntgen: Piano Trio No. 2 in B major Op. 23, Piano Trio No. 4 in G minor "Entam"
Review by Mark Novak - December 6, 2011
I was very enthusiastic about Volume 1 in this series of Julius Rontgen’s piano trios by the Storioni Trio and I am nearly as happy with this second volume. My slight disappointment with this recording has nothing to do with the playing or the recordings, both of which are superb, but rather with the trios themselves. Included here are trios No. 2 and No.4 which are earlier works than the three trios recorded in volume No.1. They seem to lack a little in the inspiration department and are what one would rightly attribute to a second rate romantic composer. That said, there is still plenty of good music here that falls close to the trios of Brahms in idiom.
The B major, Op.23 Trio No.2 opens with a straight forward allegro energico movement that lacks a memorable melody to anchor it’s over-long 9-minute frame. From here we get a lovely, minor-key andante that is one of the highlights of this work. The lively 9-minute scherzo follows with a truly delightful scamper and interplay between strings and piano. The closing allegro moderato sounds to me more like the Storioni ignored the “moderato” marking which benefits the music and keeps it alive and moving.
The G minor trio of 1898 (no opus number) was written 4 years after the Op.23. The G minor tonality gives this work a stormier character though at 24 minutes total length it is 8 minutes shorter than the Op.23 work. Rontgen makes better use of his motivic materials here and there seems to be less note spinning than in the earlier trio. All in all, a very fine piano trio.
The playing of the Storioni Trio is excellent. Intonation of the strings is spot on throughout and the group sounds unified in dynamics. The recording was made on a farm in the Netherlands that’s been converted to a chamber music venue. It sounds like a perfect space for chamber music recordings and tonmeister Manfred Schumacher has captured an extraordinarily natural piano trio sound. The balance between direct and hall sound (stereo SACD tracks) was near perfect and one can clearly hear how the instruments are laid out across the sound stage with the piano behind the strings and the violin on the left and cello on the right. There are no distracting noises from the performers. The total timing for the two trios is 56:29 and as such there was probably room for another Rontgen trio. Recommended.
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