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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Trio No.1 in B flat major Op.8
Piano Trio No.2 in C major Op.87 (1883)
Edwin Fischer (piano)
Wolfgang Schneiderhan (violin)
Enrico Mainardi (cello)
Recorded live in 1951 (No.2) and 1953 (No.1)
ARCHIPEL ARPCD 0165 [62.48]

Edwin Fischer formed his first Trio in 1935. Its cellist was Enrico Mainardi, the fine Italian musician, and the violinist was the ill-starred Georg Kulenkampff whose early death in 1948 led to his replacement by Viennese classicist Wolfgang Schneiderhan. The original group proved congenial partners with the string players forming a strong duo in the Brahms Double and the cellist and Fischer making good sonata performers. The original trio with Kulenkampff left no recordings and no live performances are known to have survived. The later group has fared better. This Brahms Trio disc replicates a Music and Arts issue of some years back Ė the same company that has also issued a double CD set of the Trioís performances from Lucerne and via Bavarian broadcast material. I believe itís to Bavarian Radio that we owe thanks for preserving these Brahms trios, though Archipel are crashingly silent on all matters of documentation. Indeed apart from the works and the names of the performers there is nothing else - this is an austerity production and it doesnít disclose the nature of the tape restoration or its source.

Though Fischer was to give up public performance in 1955 he still shows why he was so admired a musician. There are inevitable imperfections, not least in the matter of balance and a slightly brittle recording that tends to expose tonal imperfections, particularly in the higher positions, with a degree of harshness. This is slightly more the case in the B flat major which was recorded in 1953 then the companion trio, though it too suffers in this respect. For all the affectionate phrasing and interplay I canít help noting a pervasive problem, for me, and thatís Schneiderhanís metallic tone, at least as preserved in these broadcasts. His string colleague Mainardi sounds rather more elegant than the violinist and rather less monochromatic as well and it makes unison playing somewhat uncomfortable. The performance of the Op.8 trio makes a fascinating comparison with the slightly earlier live 1947 Schnabel-Szigeti-Fournier one, preserved on Arbiter. The Austro-Italo-Swiss trio are tauter all round and Fischer manages to impart superb gravity and depth into the Adagio even at a much faster basic tempo. The Fischer trio are quite slow in the trio of the scherzo but are taut elsewhere. In the Op 87 trio we can again detect steeliness in the violin tone and once or twice some nasality in Mainardiís but Fischer underpins his colleagues with stoicism and a degree of implacable honesty, phrasing with affectionate lyricism. The finale is especially bold and full of lyrical cantilever.

Notwithstanding the problems noted itís good to have the Fischer Trioís performances available in the catalogue. Iím not sure that this reflects them at their best, or tonally most ingratiating, and I still remain cautious about Archipelís transfer. But they should be heard.

Jonathan Woolf

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