RACHMANINOV: Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G Minor; TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50 – Lang Lang, piano/Mischa Maisky, cello/Vadim Repin, violin – DGG B0013504-02, 64:18 [Distr. by Universal] ****:
Recorded August 2009, these collaborations cast contemporary classical music superstars Vadim Repin and Lang Lang into a new light, one perhaps less flamboyant but more collaboratively musical. Mischa Maisky (b. 1948), well proved a seasoned veteran, brings a magisterial authority to the Russian repertory he champions. Rachmaninov’s 1892 Piano Trio, for all of its lyrical, one-movement beauty, seems a deliberate clone of the Tchaikovsky Trio of 1882, even imitating its haunted nostalgia. It, too, concludes with a funeral march in the manner of the Tchaikovsky; but what redeems the otherwise shameless restructuring of the older master is Rachmaninov’s direct sincerity and manipulation of colors.
Tchaikovsky’s potent 1882 Trio, in memory of Nikolay Rubinstein, seethes with an electric power, often in spite of the uneven quality of the inspiration, too often repetitive of rhetorical formulae in thirds and sixths. The fact that each of the three principals exerts a concertante voice of his own brings the sonic luster of the piece to an often symphonic pitch, abetted by Repin’s and Maisky’s plaintive tone, intertwined with a strong but subdued expressivity from Lang Lang. The performers opt for the uncut version of the Trio, which purists will appreciate. The keyboard part in the opening Pezzo elegiaco often resembles the fioritura from the G Major Piano Concerto, with its own penchant for repeated octave riffs. The extended second movement plays as a kind of tone-poem that illustrates the diurnal character of the deceased Nikolay Rubinstein, perhaps an adumbration of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The individual variants encapsulate character pieces, as though Rubinstein were improvising in the manner of a troika, nocturne, scherzo, music box, Chopin mazurka, Bach fugue, and waltz. The actual waltz itself (Var. 6) could easily inspire ten by Glazounov in identical style. The Allegro moderato of Variation 7 and its immediate successor, the Fuga at Variation 8, permit Lang Lang the kind of colossal display his extroverted personality craves. Repin has his lovely moment in the modulation to the major in Variation 11; then all three can indulge expansively in the heroically conceived Final Variations and Coda, with its cyclical basis. Sumptuously recorded by engineer Stephen Flock.