Here's a piece you don't often hear performed in concert: Mozart's Divertimento in B flat major, K. 254 (aka, his Piano Trio No. 1). While the other five works in the same form are performed frequently by virtue of their later date of composition, the early Trio No. 1 is not only rarely performed in concert, it's usually recorded only in context of all the other trios. And so it is here: Trio No. 1 leads off this 2007 Hyperion disc by England's Florestan Trio, and, naturally, it is followed by two later trios – No. 2 in G major, K. 496, and No. 5 in C major, K. 548.
Arensky’s Piano Trios represent a fine example of the Russian romantic piano trio, a form ‘invented’ by Tchaikovsky, Arensky’s close friend and influence. Piano Trio No 1 is the more popular of the two, dedicated to the cellist Karl Davidoff. Davidoff is regarded as the founder of the Russian school of cello-playing, and Arensky’s dedication accounts for the fact that the cello plays such a prominent role, having most of the principal themes and often seeming to eclipse the violin in importance. Piano Trio No 2 is one composer’s last works, and marks a considerable advance in Arensky’s compositional techniques.
Brahms (1833-97) devoted much of the 1880s to his three Piano Trios, having decided, as he told a friend, that there was “no further point in attempting an opera or a marriage”. They are among his less familiar chamber works. He originally wrote No 1 as a young man, overhauling it more than three decades later in 1889. All three works – the B major Op 8, C major Op 87 and C minor Op 101 – have a tender, shadowy intensity, without quite the same heart-on-sleeve fervour of the bigger chamber works. The string players here – brother and sister Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff – are regular quartet partners. Together with sensitive pianism from Lars Vogt, ensemble is alert, accurate, never forced: already a favourite CD.
The acclaimed Fidelio Trio make their Resonus debut with an exquisite recording of French piano trios – Camille Saint-Saëns’ large-scale Op. 92 second trio, and Maurice Ravel’s sole foray into the genre dating from 1914. Coming off the back of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award nomination in 2016, this recording sees the trio expand on their unparalleled reputation for new music, demonstrating the vast range of this brilliant chamber group’s abilities and talent.
In 1832 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) wrote to his sister Fanny that is what about time he wrote some ‘good trios’. He had already started but left unfinished a trio for piano, violin and viola, and started the D minor trio shortly after, completing it in 1839. Mendelssohn’s friend the composer-pianist Ferdinand Hiller advised him after the completion to make several revisions to make the work sound as up to date as possible – Hiller, was a pupil of Hummel was a keen supporter of Berlioz and Liszt. The result is a work of perfect proportions, with a brilliant piano part, skilful counterpoint and a wonderful blend of classical poise and romantic passion. Schumann reviewing the Leipzig premiere on 1840 commented that the trio was a masterpiece that would ‘bring joy to our children and grandchildren’. The 2nd trio is dedicated to the great German violinist and composer Louis Spohr.