seems as though Brahms had a knack for getting things right
first time. Regardless of the genre, whether it be the symphonies,
serenades, violin sonatas or string sextets, Brahms manages
to be at his most original and expressive in his first attempts.
Such is certainly the case with his first piano trio, which
although it was substantially revised decades after its original
composition, still comes through as a masterpiece of melodic
contour, harmonic complexity and form.
published in 1854, the B major trio is reminiscent of Beethoven’s
in its size and scope. The fifteen-plus
minute opening movement contains one of Brahms most sweeping
and gorgeous melodies - a tune that is worked through masterfully
and completely during the course of the movement. The lively
scherzo is a fittingly uplifting contrast to the autumnal
melancholy of the first movement. Very few moments in music
can match the serenity of the Adagio
, and the work
is rounded out by a lively and virtuosic ending.
Storionis approach this music symphonically, painting with
wide brushes and in bold colors. They achieve a meaty and
robust sound that although at times can be quite thrillingly
large, is never overpowering. They play with a rich, warm
tone that works particularly well with the deeply sonorous
writing of the first movement. They are also quite able to
lighten up, as evidenced by the rollicking tempi of the Scherzo
and final Allegro.
considered by many to be one of Brahms’ finest pieces of
chamber music, the Second trio, composed decades after the
first, seems more academic to these ears. Indeed there are
the grand melodies, the elegant counterpoint and the signature
play between the inner voices, but with the exception of
the lovely second movement, this trio lacks the warmth and
reflective nature of the first.
we get an outstanding performance from the Storionis, big
bold phrases and superb ensemble. One does notice however
the occasional audible sniff and snort from the players,
a habit that many instrumentalists insist is necessary for
musicality and ensemble, but in reality is an annoying bit
of snooty showmanship best left in the practice studio.
SACD sound is magnificent. There are however a couple of
problems, one small and one large. First there’s a glaring
misprint on page two of the booklet that errantly identifies
Op. 87 as Trio number three.
Secondly, the bonus
DVD is in PAL format, rendering it useless outside Europe
and Australia (unless you happen to have a system capable
of dealing with both formats).