SCHUBERT: Piano Trio D.929. Notturno D. 897 – Trio Alba (Livia Sellin, violin. Philipp Comploi, cello. Chengcheng Zhao, piano) – Audiomax Super Audio CD 9023013-6, 60:17 (9-15-2017) *****:
Trio Alba’s stunning new recording of Schubert’s second Piano Trio is exceptional in the modern fashion: almost casually virtuosic, bright eyed, bushy tailed and up on the latest scholarship. They even make the insane length of the original last movement the way to go from now on. Although it makes the last movement at 20 minutes 4 minutes longer than the first movement, and the entire Trio to more than 50 minutes, it clears up the composer’s thinking to a remarkable extent and makes an appropriately expanding, Schubertian statement.
The players and the recording engineers working at the church in Marienmünster, a half hour’s drive from MDG’s headquarters in Detmold, make some exceptionally gorgeous, open-hearted joyous sounds with the piano recorded in the most stunning liquid tones. And the first bars of the D. 897 Notturno which follow begin so softly that you have to tune your ears in extra carefully; then, when the first notes from the violin and cello begin to emerge the effect is pure magic—Schubert would have been proud of such of hallucinogenic haze.
The Trio’s playing bonds fully with the audiophile labels’ warm and detailed sound. The already splendid recording gains substantially on a SACD system or, even more brilliantly, on electrostatic cans where it has a spectral quality that defies the limits of imagination, handling perfectly the dynamic stresses Schubert puts on the performers throughout, enabling them to smooth out the awkward imbalances with which the writing is otherwise plagued.
The Trio’s name alludes both to the Italian word for dawn and the Swedish song that inspired the theme of the slow movement.