This is a curious disc.
The idea of Pictures at an Exhibition scored for piano trio is laughable
unless both the cello and the violin have equal parts with the piano which,
in this arrangement, they do not. In the main, the string parts reinforce
the piano part but when the keyboard is silent the string parts seem lost.
There are some scratchy string tremolos and ugly quasi glissandi and often
the strings have nothing to do but seem to come in haphazardly as if at a
rehearsal. Some of the string effects are most off-putting and absurd. You
will either love it or hate it and the final movement The Great Gate at
Kiev will decide it for you if you need to wait that long.
Generally, Rimsky's Piano Trio is a warm, leisurely piece reminiscent
of Brahms's late glowing style. It is a substantial piece lasting 45 minutes
and, while it is not great music, it is often beautifully written. Apparently,
Rimsky's son-in-law, Maximilian Steinberg completed this work shortly before
the outbreak of the Second World War, some thirty years after Rimsky's death.
Rimsky is not remembered for his chamber music but there is a String
Quartet of 1875, a String Sextet and a Quintet for piano and
wind, both dating from 1876. By the time of this Piano Trio, he
had produced six operas including a setting of Pushkin's poem Mozart and
Salieri, three symphonies, a piano concert, the popular Spanish
Caprice and the hackneyed Sheherazade. And so, the Piano Trio
is a late work.
This was written four years after the death of Tchaikovsky whose Piano
Trio in A minor, Op 50 was written 'in memory of a great artist'. (The
Bekova Sisters have recorded this on Chandos CHAN9719). By the time Rimsky
came to write his Trio, Borodin and Tchaikovsky were both dead and
this may explain why this work is elegiac as seen, for example, in the slow
fugal introduction to the finale. The reliance on such a device
is the only disappointment in this work. The rest of the finale is
controlled high spirits although fugal devices reappear. Eight minutes or
so into this movement we have a glorious lyricism and a melodic line second
to none. This music breaks down somewhat after this with a loss of momentum
and another fugal device but, thankfully, the 'happy' music returns.
There is a great deal to enjoy in the Rimsky. The performances are good and
the recorded sound most admirable.