When Felix Mendelssohn arrived in Leipzig in 1835, he not only became the principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, but also was composer-in-residence and founded the Conservatory. He found a staunch, though idealistically unlikely ally in fellow-composer Robert Schumann, who in his role as music journalist sang Mendelssohn’s praises, describing him as the ‘Mozart of the nineteenth century.’ Mendelssohn was indeed firmly rooted in the Classical tradition; Johann Hummel, his piano teacher, was a Mozart pupil, and Mendelssohn’s music resonated with the increasingly culturally sophisticated German middle class.
Mendelssohn’s two Piano Trios are classics of the Romantic oeuvre, and while the individual movements alternate between melancholy and sunny subjects, each is filled with passion and virtuosic writing. These virtues are brought to life by the members of Trio Wanderer, who if anything, are unquestionable virtuosos at their respective instruments. And while the playing is at times fiery and at breakneck speed, there’s an overriding lyrical grace and warmth that’s ever present. According to the disc’s excellent liner notes, Mendelssohn confessed to his sister Fanny that the second trio was “a bit beastly to play,” but via the deft musicianship of the Trio Wanderer, there’s no sign of difficulty whatsoever.
The recording is nothing short of superb; Harmonia mundi and artistic director Jean-Martial Golaz have done a remarkable job of capturing the ambience of the performance hall, while presenting an excellent acoustic image of the Trio Wanderer in your soundstage. Very highly recommended.
– Tom Gibbs