DVORAK: The Piano Trios = Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat Op. 21; Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor Op. 26; Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor Op. 65; Piano Trio No. 4 (Dumky) Op. 90 – Guarneri Trio Prague – Praga Digitals

by | Aug 13, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

DVORAK: The Piano Trios = Piano Trio No. 1 in B flat Op. 21; Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor Op. 26; Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor Op. 65; Piano Trio No. 4 (Dumky) Op. 90 – Guarneri Trio Prague – Praga Digitals multichannel SACDs 250259/60 (2 discs), 69:01, 57:36 ****1/2 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) wrote these four trios between 1874 and 1891,  and there are a couple of earlier incomplete works whose manuscripts are lost. The first trio in which Dvořák made important changes after the first performance and before it was published is in classical form: two quick movements surround a slow one and a scherzo placed third. Lyrical and dance-like motifs abound, together with darker melancholy in the slow movement.

The second trio was written less than a year later, during which time Dvořák lost a daughter shortly after she was born, and was disappointed that a promised performance of the Fifth Symphony did not take place. In G minor, coincidentally perhaps Mozart’s key of darkness and tragedy, the mood lifts in the scherzo though the smile is somewhat fixed. The last movement has contrasts of wilful energetic material contrasting with more dance-like passages.

While the first two trios were written in strict classical form, the third from 1883 is more Brahmsian with an allegretto second movement followed by the slow movement.  Dvořák uses more Slavonic material than before, particularly in the second and fourth movements, this last employing a furiant. The last trio, completed in 1891, ditches the four movement framework for six dumkas; the dumka, from the Ukranian duma, a Slavic ballad in thoughtful and melancholic mood,  perhaps translates into a ballade or reverie. This trio,  one of Dvořák’s most popular chamber works, is full of folksong and dance, the moods ranging from quiet contemplation to burning passion.

The Guarneri Trio perform with consummate style and idiom, their long association showing in clear architecture and superb ensemble. Both violin and ‘cello are by Guarneri, the former the “Zimbalist”, and the recording captures the quality of these instruments very successfully. Praga Digitals’ DSD recording is very well balanced, sounding particularly fine in surround mode but excellent, too, in stereo, with just the right amount of ambient acoustic for this listener. There is a sense of a live occasion here, though these were recorded without an audience, and the players can be “felt” in the soundstage, perhaps due to the odd quiet sniff here and there. The accompanying booklet has a detailed and interesting essay by Pierre Barbier.

There are quite a few recordings of these works from which to choose, including a fine one from the Suk Trio on Supraphon. Readers on the lookout for a first-class recording of the trios in first-class sound should include this set on their short-list.

— Peter Joelson

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