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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Complete Piano Trios

No.1 in B major, Op. 8, revised version (1889) [38.10]
No.2 in C major, Op.87 (1882) [29.41]
No.3 in C minor, Op.101 (1886) [22.27]
Trio in A major, Op. posth, attrib. Brahms (published 1938) [40.14]
No.1 in B major, Op. 8, first version (1853-54) [19.20]
Macquarie Trio: Nicholas Milton (violin); Michael Goldschlager (cello); Kathryn Selby (piano)
Recorded between October 2001 and April 2002 in the Eugene Goossens Hall of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, Australia
ABC CLASSICS 472 668-2 [3 CDs: 67.49+62.37+45.03]



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Together with the two Clarinet Sonatas, Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet Trio three of these Trios for violin, cello and piano are among Brahms’s last works. They represent compelling evidence that, after some 25 chamber compositions, he had lost none of his free-flowing inspiration. Of particular interest is the opportunity to compare two versions of Op. 8, one written when Brahms was in his early twenties and the other a reworking made eight years before his death in 1897. The maturity and confidence of the first version which, despite several amended tempo indications and a change in the time signature of the first movement from 4/4 to 2/2 (alla breve), merits direct comparison with the revision. The revision displays indeed enhances the youthful optimism and vivacity of the original. The Macquarie Trio clearly takes the brisker tempi of the second version seriously, with a difference of 18.50 in total playing times.

The other rarity here is the Trio in A, discovered in 1924 by Ernst Bücken of Cologne University among the papers of the late Dr. Erich Preiger of Bonn. The manuscript lacked a title page and was written in a hand other than that of Brahms. It nevertheless bears a close stylistic resemblance to the German master, and was published in 1938, becoming widely accepted as an unknown work by the young Brahms. The lyrical opening and broad melodies of the first movement are distinctly Brahmsian, and the plaintive cantabile of the central section is particularly touching. The use of a chorale-like theme in the closing part (Lento) of the second movement is a further reminder that this was a device that Brahms (who had a deep admiration for J.S.Bach) often used. The Finale, (Presto) is similarly evocative of Brahms in an extrovert mood and includes, as well as Hungarian-sounding material, decidedly Bach-like echoes. The Trio in A is well worth its inclusion on this disc, not only for the sake of completeness, but also for its intrinsic qualities. Having also heard the unrevised Op. 8 I have no difficulty in accepting it as an early work by the German master. Let the musicologists argue the point if they wish: either way it is a treasure.

So what of the unquestionably authentic works on this disc? The informative insert booklet is helpful in analysing the Trios that, with their blend of Classical rigour and Romantic imagination, are quintessentially Brahmsian. The composer’s introduction of faster metronome markings in his revision of Op. 8 suggests that he was anxious to avoid a staid (not to say ‘elderly’) approach: con brio, Allegro molto (several times), Allegro giocoso, Allegro energico and Allegro agitato all appear as interpretative markings and, while the slow movements are sublime, the overall impression is that of sharing the feelings of a free spirit rather than (as in the Clarinet Quintet) the autumnal reflections of a retired composer.

The Macquarie Trio responds magnificently, with crisp, accurate playing and close attention to the syncopated rhythms and chromatic texture that thread their way through these works. These are carefully considered, well-rehearsed performances by players who obviously relish the opportunity of re-introducing all these exciting works into the chamber repertoire.

Roy Brewer



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