absorbing compilation features a broad cross-section of the
repertoire for piano trio, ranging from late-Romantic to contemporary.
We are told that CDs 2 and 3 contain material that has been
released previously. I note the Australian Trio have made
personnel changes as on CDs 1 and 4, cellist Susan Blake has
taken over from Catherine Hugill. Since the last of these
recordings was made I understand that Fenella Gill has joined
the ensemble as their cellist.
are told that in 1996 the Australian Trio was formed, “out
of the enjoyment each of these artists derives from their
musical collaboration.” The leader Donald Hazelwood and
pianist Michael Brimer are highly experienced performers and
soloists in their own right, and provide an impressive depth
of interpretative power. The Australian Trio actively look
for material that lies outside the standard repertoire and
enjoy performing and recording works by current Australian
composers. The pianist Michael Brimer a Professor Emeritus
at the University of Melbourne also has an active career as an organist and composer
and his Piano Trio No. 1 is performed on this issue.
first work on this ABC Classics release is the Brahms Piano
Trio No. 2. The Australian Trio perform the rich and intense
writing with impressive vigour and commitment, although I
would have preferred a greater degree of emotion in the andante.
A fine performance but it cannot achieve the penetrating
insights and authoritative playing of the distinguished account
from the Beaux Arts Trio on Philips Duo 438 365-2.
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio titled ‘In memory of a
Great Artist’ was written in remembrance of his friend
the composer Nikolai Rubinstein and at nearly forty-five minutes
in length is a monumental work of the repertoire. The Australian
Trio provide a compelling performance fully attuned to the
score’s passionate lyricism. My favoured version for its ardent
fervour and immediacy is the recording from the Borodin Trio
on Chandos CHAN 8348.
second CD opens with Hummel’s Piano Trio No. 1, Op.
12. I love the way the players take a secure grip with an
expressive lyricism in the expansive outer movements. The
Trio from the teenage Debussy is full of warm and sensitive
feeling that the Australian players convey with delightful
character and elegance. To reach the heights of the best versions
I would have preferred a touch more subtlety from Brimer and
additional keyboard colour. For their sensitivity and alertness
my preferred account of the Debussy Trio is performed
by the Florestan trio on Hyperion CDA 67114. In Arensky’s
Piano Trio No. 1 the players provide positive and characterful
playing in this robust and melodically resourceful score.
The playing is so engaging that one wishes that they had also
recorded Arensky’s second Piano Trio in F Minor, Op.
73 of 1905. This interpretation is right up there with the
spirited and exciting version from the Borodin Trio on Chandos
the third CD the opening work is Hummel’s appealing Piano
Trio No. 4. It is easy to feel the undoubted influence
of Mozart who had been an influential teacher of Hummel. The
Australian Trio play with exuberance and considerable charm,
although I wanted a touch more vivacity in the opening allegro.
much as I admire these performances of the Hummel trios there
is much more to savour in the affectionate and thoughtfully
characterised readings on period instruments from the Voces
Intimae on Warner Classics 2564 62596-2. At the time of writing
his Piano Trio Op. 15 Smetana was experiencing severe
emotional difficulties which is impressively reflected with
imagination and admirable tone colour. I remain faithful to
the compellingly confident and polished account of the Smetana
trio from the Trio Fontenay on Warner Apex 0927 40822-2.
me the final CD is the most interesting as it contains two
unfamiliar contemporary scores from Ross Edwards and from
Michael Brimer. There is also an early Bernstein score from
when, I guess, he was still a student of Walter Piston at
Harvard University and had fallen under the influence of the eminent conductor
Dmitri Mitropoulos. Bernstein didn’t write many chamber scores
which makes this one a rarity.
Brimer’s first Piano Trio in two sections the grave
and rhythmic, often mantra-like outpourings of the opening
movement are impressively communicated. The unsettling energy
of the second movement is played with stormy abandon and brusque
intensity. The allegretto that opens Ross Edwards’s
three movement Piano Trio is a yearning contemplative
outpouring with an underlying disturbing character. In the
rather uneventful adagio and with the stop-start nature
of the nervous finale the Australians remain steadfast
and resilient. Bernstein’s youthful Piano Trio is uneven
in quality but it announces significant potential for the
improvements that were to quickly come in his career. There
is unwavering and dedicated playing in the relatively cheerless
opening movement and in the rather sparse and cool rhythms
of the central movement. The initially monotonous finale
gives way to a welcome mood of rampant high spirits and
is performed here with affection, persuasion and commendable
recorded sound is consistently appealing and decently balanced
with booklet notes by Michael Brimer that are interesting
and reasonably informative. Additional works could have been
included to fill up the set as the third disc at only forty-eight
minutes is short measure and the fifty-eight minute fourth
disc is not generous either.
well performed and recorded box set containing a broad cross-section
of fascinating repertoire for the piano trio is certainly
worth searching out and will provide considerable rewards.