Robert Schumann’s view that Mendelssohn was the Mozart of the 19th century is one with which many would concur, and the Piano Trios on this immaculately recorded SACD are two of the finest pieces of chamber music ever written; the composer’s melodic gift, mastery of contrapuntal techniques and sonata form, clearly evident in every bar.
Both these works have been well served over the years by the considerable number of outstanding recordings of them, beginning in the 1920’s with the celebrated version of the Piano Trio No.1 by Cortot, Thibaud and Casals. Most recently accounts of both trios by Julia Fischer, Jonathan Gilad, and Daniel Müller Schott on PENTATONE Mendelssohn: Piano Trios – Fischer, Gilad, Müller-Schott and the Sitkovetsky Trio on BIS Mendelssohn: The Piano Trios – Sitkovetsky Trio have received well-deserved plaudits, but there is always room for new interpretations of what are two of Mendelssohn’s finest creations.
The Hamlet Trio comprises Italian born pianist Paolo Giacometti, Scottish violinist Candida Thompson, perhaps most familiar as the artistic leader of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Serbian-Russian cellist Xenia Jankovic. It was formed in 2011 and this is their début recording. All three are well-known for their excellence both as soloists and as chamber musicians, so the high quality of their musicianship is not in doubt and is certainly displayed to the full on this disc
What makes these performances rather special is the Hamlet Trio’s decision to perform them on an 1837 Erard piano from the Edwin Beunk collection as well as using gut strings and bows which brings them closer to the sound with which Mendelssohn would have been familiar. The ability of the gut strings to provide a warm sonority, full of rich overtones that allow the two string players to discover new tonal nuances in the music, is immediately apparent. What the mellow sounding Erhard piano brings to the table is clarity, especially to Mendelssohn’s writing at the lower end of the spectrum which here never sounds heavy or too full.
Both the Opus 49 (1839) and the Opus 66 (1845) Piano Trios share the same basic form – two energetic and restless outer movements that enclose a songful slow movement and a short scherzo in the composer’s gossamer-like style. The latter in both works are splendidly delivered thanks to Paulo Giacometti’s virtuosic and nimble pianism and the fine rhythmic buoyancy displayed by his partners. Tempi adopted by the Hamlet Trio throughout seem ideal. The passion and tempestuous character of these compositions is realised to the full, yet these artists are meltingly expressive in the two glorious slow movements, never short changing the music’s abundant lyricism.
As expected from Channel Classics, the sound quality of the 5.0 DSD recording is beautifully balanced and marvellously lifelike – the MCO Studio 1 in Hilversum providing an acoustic that ensures no blurring of the individual instrumental lines, yet still allows them to blend effortlessly.
Whilst those seeking these works in audiophile sound quality have an ample supply of versions from which to choose, this most enjoyable release should definitely be added to their shopping lists.
Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net