all-Rachmaninov disc will doubtless fill a hole in many a collection.
The playing is accomplished, the music attractive and, at the
Naxos price, this is a bargain.
rhythmic motif from the violin and cello that opens Rachmaninov's
first piano trio could introduce a chamber work by John Adams,
but from the piano's first entry there is no mistaking the composer
of this piece. Even as a young composer, Rachmaninov's
was an individual voice. Certainly his melodic gifts are very
much on show here. The single sonata-form movement is well
constructed, and is pleasing without being profound. It is
perhaps a little too serious in tone for its material and development
and the writing for strings is a tad under-developed as compared
to the more robust piano part. Nonetheless, there is a lot
of characteristically beautiful melody here and this youthful
work is worth hearing. Grohovski, Wulfson and Yablonsky certainly
respond to it with full commitment and may almost have you believing
that it is a neglected masterpiece.
second piano trio, though written only a year later, is more
mature in style and utterance. It is modelled closely on Tchaikovsky's
A Minor piano trio. Just as the older composer's trio was dedicated
“to the memory of a great artist”, Nikolai Rubinstein, Rachmaninov's
trio is dedicated to Tchaikovsky, whose death inspired its composition
and for whom it is an elegy. Grohovski, Yablonsky and Wulfson
are even more impressive in this piece than in its predecessor,
engaging more naturally with its all-pervading melancholy.
They are tender in the first movement's slow introductory lament,
but declamatory in the same movement's wildly despairing sections
and the vigorous passages in the finale. Again, the string
writing is not the most sophisticated – comparison with the
Tchaikovsky trio shows this immediately – and the piano carries
the piece even more than usual. Fortunately, Grohovski is attuned
to the drama of the piece. His playing is suitably dreamy and
his use of rubato well-judged.
second movement starts with a nostalgic theme stated by solo
piano, shifting the mood from the pain of loss to a gentle nostalgia.
The references to Tchaikovsky are compounded in this movement,
as Rachmaninov uses this theme as the basis for a set of variations,
just as the second movement of Tchaikovsky's trio is a set of
variations on a very similar theme. As pointed out by Keith
Anderson in his excellent liner-notes, Rachmaninov's theme also
resembles a melody from his early tone poem, The Rock
(also known as The Cliff or The Crag), which Tchaikovsky
had promised to conduct in concert. Grohovski's generous pedalling
and rubato make the second variation for solo piano something
to savour, but there could perhaps be more snap to the third
variation that follows.
short final movement would also benefit from a touch more fire.
Grohovski's attack here seems a little soft-edged, though once
the movement is well under way all three musicians are emphatic
in their collective outpouring of grief, as the mood set up
by the opening movement returns.
the disc, the trio soloists play with commitment. They are
alive to the drama of the music and conscious of dynamics.
Yablonsky's cello tone is rich and creamy and Grohovski swoons
at the keyboard, but not too much. Wulfson also projects well,
but in places – in particular in the first trio and the variation
movement of the second trio – his insistent vibrato is a tad
too heavy and his tone acquires a rough edge. This latter quibble
is not fatal, but the consequence is that he does not blend
with his colleagues quite as well as he might have, though the
trio's ensemble is consistently crisp.
quality of the recording is high, though for some reason the
cello is overwhelmed by the violin and piano in the tuttis of
the second trio's first movement.
disc is full of beautiful music, beautifully played and recorded.
If you do not know these pieces, here is your introduction.
see also Review
by Terry Barfoot
BARGAIN OF THE MONTH in March