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Romantic String Trios from Hungary
Leo WEINER (1885-1960)

String Trio, Op. 6 in g (1908) [21.54]
Zoltan KODÁLY (1882-1967)

Intermezzo (c.1905) [5.12]
Ernst von DOHNANYI (1877-1960)

Serenade Op. 10 (1902) [21.14]
Deutsches Streichtrio: Hans Kalafusz, violin; Jürgen Weber, viola; Reiner Ginzel, cello
Recorded at Kirche der Karlshöhe, Ludwigsburg, Germany, April 1992
Notes in English, Français, Deutsch.
CPO 999 9502 [48.50]


Comparison recording:

Dohnanyi, Serenade; Perlman, Zukerman and Harrell. CBS LP

The Dohnanyi work bears the honour of being the most accessible, most fun string trio ever written. By the time I got to college I was well familiar with it and looked forward to the performance at the dormitory one Sunday evening. The audience that night was filled with engineering students who had been warned that they must attend and look interested or the honour of their fraternity was in jeopardy. Imagine then their reaction when they found out classical music, chamber music at that, could actually be a lot of fun. The performers were a little taken aback at the intensity of the approval. The audience would not stop cheering and applauding. I suspect that lives were changed that night.

Apart from that, Dohnanyi ranks with Donald Francis Tovey among the most under-appreciated composers of the 20th century. Yes, the Serenade Op 10 is a crowning masterpiece; I’ve known it for 50 years. Why doesn’t everybody else know it? It must be them Communists, or perhaps the BBC. An issue in the performance of this work is whether or not the peasant dance swagger should be explicitly projected by the performers, or should they play the notes as written with beauty and precision and allow the extra-musical qualities of the music to manifest on their own. This recording leans toward the latter criterion and features rich string tone, melodic phrasing and rhythmic lilt without exaggeration.

Perlman, Zukerman and Harrell, on the other hand, lean toward presenting the work as a genuine hoe-down. I wouldn’t be without either.

The Weiner and Kodály works were new to me. The Weiner especially is richly melodic and played with great affect. They are only slightly less appealing, less gently bourgeois-friendly than the Dohnanyi and the trio of works makes a very good program.

Other pieces of chamber music by Kodaly featuring the cello are familiar to me and the whole body of his cello chamber music is an exciting, honourable opus, explored by Janos Starker in the 1950s, the recordings having been issued in North America on LPs bearing the Period label. One might hope that Yo-Yo Ma, once he’s had enough of being a "personality" and decides to be more of a musician again, would investigate it.

This would be an excellent gift for a person who thinks he or she might like chamber music but has never had the chance to get acquainted.

Paul Shoemaker

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