Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) composed his Piano Trio in 1895, when he was still under the spell of Johannes Brahms. The martial and personal impulses no less contain a Slavonic character, as if Dvorak were close. This Dvorak element becomes rather blatant in the second movement, where the rhythm and melodic contour resemble the main theme of the B Minor Cello Concerto. A strong cyclic unity resonates within the piece, which has an emotional monochrome but a fine-tuned balance among the three instruments.
Mahler (1860-1911) left very few evidences of his early efforts in composition: but his 1876 Piano Quartet movement indicates string ties to Schubert and the ubiquitous Brahms. Mahler calls for an occasional special effect, con sordino, in the intermezzo sections of this concentrated work in sonata-form. Melancholy, emotionally turbulent, the Piano Quartet no less demonstrates the composer‚s strong melodic gift. He adds a brief gypsy-like violin cadenza before the morendo conclusion.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1949) represents the youngest member of this 20th Century Viennese assemblage. Schoenberg had ties to Brahms, Zemlinsky, and Mahler, though the structure of his 1902 sextet Verklaerte Nacht hearkens to Schubert and Liszt, each of whom divided their one-movement, cyclic works into four subdivisions. Utilizing a poem by Richard Dehmel as a program basis, the passionate music surges from minor to major, tracing the confessions of a woman who is pregnant with child by a man not her husband. When the man to whom she confides accepts her body and soul, we seem to have reversed the usual pattern of redemption into a reminiscence of Massenet’s Thais, which is quoted in the melodic pattern. Pianist and Schoenberg scholar Eduard Steuermann (1892-1964) made the transcription for piano trio, and most effective it is. Steuermann’s own CBS disc of Schoenberg’s piano music for LP (ML 5216) ought to be resurrected. Recorded in 2004, these three romantic expressions of the Second Viennese School find more than sympathy from the Vienna Piano Trio (est. 1988); they receive symphonic treatment. MDG sound is top of the line, the individual instrumental lines pungent and startlingly present. Recommended!
— Gary Lemco