> MENDELSSOHN Piano Trios 1,2 Gould NAXOS 8.555063 [JW]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trios Nos 1 and 2 Opp 49 and 66
Gould Piano Trio
Recorded Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk April 2000
NAXOS 8.555063 [57.02]


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Into the lists with their Mendelssohn trios come the young and talented Gould Piano Trio – Lucy Gould, violin, Martin Storey, cello and Benjamin Frith, piano. There is no shortage of competitors and even at budget price there must be sufficient tonal variety and musical acuity to attract attention to the playing. I found them more convincing in the C minor, Op 66 trio than in the earlier D minor. In the somewhat-too-recessed ambience of Naxos’s currently favoured Potton Hall in Suffolk the Gould begin the Op 49 with conviction but rather fey phrasing, which threatens to sabotage Mendelssohn’s Molto allegro agitato marking. Their commitment to flexible phrasing springs from admirable roots but comes at the cost of architectural coherence. In the Andante con moto tranquillo I found their rubato slightly affected, despite Gould’s expressive nuances, and the point-making scherzo somewhat unyielding. Throughout I found them straining too hard, fusing over-nuanced phrasing with disparities of tempi.

If the Op 49 trio never really settled then I found the Op 66 a good deal better. Alighting on a tempo giusto they stick to it; expressive devices are put to the service of the work as a whole. The vigorous first movement is assertive and well moulded; the Andante expressivo is delivered with simplicity and gains all the more for it. Good dynamics inform the Scherzo which is properly fleet. The Finale could perhaps do with greater unanimity and weight of string tone but throughout Benjamin Frith provides the motor necessary to galvanize his partners.

Throughout some extraneous noises can be heard – cello rasps especially and a virtuoso amount of anticipatory sniffing from Lucy Gould, which is normally of little account to me but may be off-putting on repeated hearing. For patrician recordings the Stern-Rose-Istomin traversals are on Sony SMK 64519. Historically minded aficionados of great playing will want the Cortot-Thibaud-Casals recording of No 1, available on Biddulph LHW002; the perceptive will also want the Sammons-Tertis-Murdoch recording in its viola arrangement on Biddulph LAB023. These are the earliest electrical recordings of both works and still worthy of intense study.

Jonathan Woolf

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