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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839) [30:58]
Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66 (1845) [30:29]
Variations concertantes for cello and piano, Op 17 (1829) [9:58]
The Nash Ensemble: (Marianne Thorsen (violin); Paul Watkins (cello); Ian Brown (piano))
rec. 10-12 October 2005, Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex, England. DDD
ONYX 4011 [71:54]

 


 

This is the second release on the independent designer record label Onyx from the Nash Ensemble, who are renowned as one of Britain’s finest chamber ensembles. Their first Onyx release was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Chamber Works, with soprano Sally Matthews, on Onyx 4005.

The London-based Nash Ensemble celebrated their fortieth anniversary in the 2004-05 season and have gained an impressive reputation for their consistently memorable performances. I especially enjoy their performances of the classical repertoire and have had the good fortune to see them perform the Mendelssohn Octet at the Wigmore Hall earlier this year.

In a six-year period between 1839 and 1845 Mendelssohn wrote two of the finest piano trios in the repertoire. These two can stand comparison with Beethoven’s finest: The Ghost’ and ‘Archduke’ written 1808-11; Schubert’s B flat and E flat from 1828; Schumann’s three composed 1847-51 and Brahms’s from 1854-86.

In 1832, when he was 23, Mendelssohn wrote to his sister Fanny, “I should like to compose a couple of good trios.” Not long after his marriage to Cécile Jeanrenaud, Mendelssohn did finally compose these two, the first in 1839 and the second in 1845.

The Piano Trio No. 1 was composed in the cities of Leipzig and Frankfurt. It was an immediate success and has proved to be one of his most perennially popular scores. Mendelssohn’s friend Ferdinand Hiller stated, “I was tremendously impressed with the fire and spirit, the flow and, in short, the mastery to be heard in every bar.” Cast in well balanced proportions the joyous and exuberant four movement work is exquisite and remains the most admired of the pair. It has an abundance of charm and appeal that has maintained its eminent status in the chamber music repertoire. The part for piano is more prominent than the more discreet involvement of the violin and cello. 

In the lengthy opening movement Molto allegro ed agitato the players are thoughtful and secure, although a touch tentative, especially in the early section. The second movement Andante, a delightful Song Wit