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Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor (1894) [31:23]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Piano Trio in D major (1909) [32:45]
Escher Trio: Jeroen Bal (piano); Sonja van Beek (violin); Johann van Iersel (cello)
rec. Maria Minor Kerk, Utrecht, The Netherlands, March 2002

A trickle of new recordings are appearing in this centenary year of the death of the works of Russian composer, conductor and pianist, Anton Arensky, pupil and protégé of Rimsky-Korsakov and teacher of harmony and counterpoint to, among others, Rachmaninov and Scriabin at St Petersburg Conservatory.
Arensky’s delightful Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor is probably his best known and best loved creation.
Alas this new recording, compared with that by the Borodin Trio on Chandos CHAN 8477 (1987) disappoints. The Borodin Trio’s ensemble playing is so much more elegant. The lovely Elegia, Adagio movement which is the heart of the work, in the hands of the Borodin players, is exquisitely refined: sweet and haunting. The Escher Trio’s playing is not nearly as transporting. The Escher’s Scherzo is jolly and bouncing but it takes the Borodin to reveal its finesse and delicacy.
I have it on good authority that the 1982 CRD 3409 recording coupling the Arensky Trio with the Rimsky-Korsakov Quintet is also splendid and worth considering if you do not want the Glinka as a filler as on the Chandos recording.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, until the 1980s, only for his Warner Bros film scores, was a child prodigy. His considerable non-film music output included operas, orchestral, instrumental and chamber music and songs. Korngold’s Piano Trio is interesting because it was written when he was only 12, an incredible achievement, considering its complexity. It certainly impressed because it was premiered by Bruno Walter, Arnold Rosé and Friedrich Buxbaum.
The youthful Escher Trio responds enthusiastically to its outer movements’ overt lyricism and assertiveness. They attack the playful yet demanding harmonic and rhythmic twists of the variations that comprise the Scherzo - relaxing into the tenderness at its centre. But, as far as the emotional Larghetto is concerned - and elsewhere - there is that much more warmth shown by the soloists of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Glenn Dicterow (violin), Alan Stepansky (cello) and Israela Margalit (piano)) in the rival EMI 5554012 recording of this Korngold Trio.
The Escher’s Arensky Trio offers lots of attack but lacks warmth. Try the Borodin Trio’s inspired reading of the Arensky on Chandos and, for the Korngold, the soloists of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on EMI.
Ian Lace


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