SCHUBERT: The Piano Trios; Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor; Notturno in E-flat Major – Kalichstein, p./ Laredo, violin/ Robinson, cello – Bridge (2 CDs)

by | Apr 11, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: The Piano Trios; Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor, D. 821; Notturno in E-flat Major, D. 897 – Joseph Kalichstein, piano/ Jaime Laredo, violin/ Sharon Robinson, cello – Bridge 9376A/B  (2 CDs), 64:15; 74:07 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio has been making splendid music together for thirty-five years, and so far as this all-Schubert album (rec. 28-30 November and 2-3 December 2010) attests, their brio and sterling ensemble may endure thirty-five more.  The present assemblage of Schubert by Bridge, under the production auspices of Becky and David Starobin and engineered by Adam Abeshouse, bestows an immediacy upon the players’ instruments that quite disarms us. The ostinati of the piano and ensuing in the E-flat Major Trio’s Andante con moto in C Minor, for instance, grant the figures a weight reminiscent of the funereal moments in Beethoven’s E-flat Major and A Major Symphonies. For those who first took heavy note of this music in Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 epic film Barry Lyndon, the stunning effect of the first impression finds itself renewed. [To my thinking one of the most effective uses of a standard classical work on a film soundtrack ever; although The Blue Danube in 2001 was pretty good too…Ed.]
One of Schubert’s minor miracles, his Adagio in E-flat Major, D. 897 (pub. 1846), has had fine representation on disc and in performance as far back as by members of the Trio di Balzano and certainly by the Beaux Arts Trio. Scholars speculate that Schubert intended the movement for his 1827 Trio in B-flat Major, but Schubert composed a new Andante for that work while retaining this haunted rondo as an independent opus. Built an repetitions of triplet figures, the music seems to float, almost vertically inert, the thirds in ¾ time that move occasionally into Neapolitan harmony. Whether serenade, nocturne, or melancholy meditation, the piece beguiles us at once and forever. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio invests the piece with an agonized, richly textured procession and variants, nobly executed.
The ensemble takes on Schubert’s early Trio-Movement in B-flat, D. 28, composed in Schubert’s fifteenth year, c. 1812, but not published until 1923. Conceived under the aegis of Antonio Salieri, the Allegro that Schubert proffers combines Mozart’s innate lyricism with Schubert’s own burgeoning structural confidence. Robinson’s cello tone has ready materials to exert its sweet power in the course of the procession, set off by some fine, even aggressive, dialogue for piano and violin. Laredo’s playing, often concertante, seems quite inspired. But the mesh of this veteran trio so naturally ingratiates and complements itself that it becomes superfluous to elaborate on any one individual. The spry figures of the youthful Schubert, not infrequently, reveal a more potent spirit, one living in Beethoven’s shadow but not to be overshadowed.
Given Jaime Laredo’s superb virtuosity in solo and concerted playing, it seems perfectly natural to complement the two masterful Piano Trios, which Schumann characterized as alternately “Eusebius” (feminine) and “Florestan” (masculine) by the standards of his own (seriously unbalanced) temperament, with Schubert’s tribute to the so-called “bowed guitar:” the 1824  Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor. The 1871 arrangement for standard cello has been a dominant factor in the repertory ever since. The Robinson-Kalichstein duo invest this mercurial piece with melancholy and infinite degrees of virile nostalgia. The music alternately sighs, languishes, and sings with a breezy exultation. The original instrument permitted Schubert bravura figures over two octaves plus a fourth, with its six strings and neck strings offered possibilities for accompanied pizzicato. But despite the modern cello’s “limited” resources, Robinson instills a ravishing romantic glow into the often swooping runs and sudden shifts of register. Kalichstein supplies his own noblesse upon the pages of the keyboard part. The second movement grant us Schubert of the “pure song,” a rarified lament from Orpheus. The suave rondo, Allegretto, enjoys a push-and-pull in the rhythmic pulse that will beguile the most inured veteran of this fabulously inventive piece. Added to the absolutely scintillating renditions of the two Trios, the set recommends itself to any Schubert or chamber music devotee.
—Gary Lemco

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