Despite a virtual fantasy league galaxy of superstars for competition, beginning with the Busch Trio in 1935, not to mention Horszowki-Schneider-Casals and Rubinstein-Szeryng-Fournier and a host of others, there has not been a completely satisfactory recording of Schubert’s second Piano Trio. Like the first, the writing is full of inspired tunes and harmonies, with each instrument getting many wonderful things to do, but the integration of the three instruments is not handled well by the composer, leading to clunky phrasing and unconvincing momentum, problems which most recordings do not begin to address.
Each movement presents its own challenges, although the emotionally complex slow movement, with its plaintive main theme (including a very curious grace note whose presence and importance remains unresolved), is at least well-known through Stanley Kubrick’s use of it in his film Barry Lyndon.
The lack of a great performance has now been dealt with. This performance is so irresistibly happy and (appropriately) carefree, so relaxed in its handling of the instrumental detail, line and phrasing, that it would be the first choice at any price. Nor are the moments of mystery ignored; the pianist especially is willing to use “white space” to create atmosphere and anticipation. It is a remarkable accomplishment, enhanced by a gorgeous recording made at St. George’s Church, Brand Hill, in Bristol. The performance even includes the usually cut (and very interesting if also very busy) 99 bars.
The Trio (violinist Malin Broman, cellist Jesper Svedberg and pianist Simon Crawford Phillips), formed in 1997, takes its name from the Swedish town in which it gave its first performance and has established an annual chamber music festival, now in its sixth year.
– Laurence Vittes