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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Trio No. 3 in F-minor Op 65, B130 (1883) [40:22]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15 (1855) [27:36]
Gelius Trio (Micaela Gelius (piano); Streten Krstic (violin); Michael Hell (cello))
rec. Grosser Saal of Augsburg University, September 2007
THOROFON CTH2549 [69:03]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a sensible coupling. The Dvořák is the more recorded and here receives a persuasive performance. It’s somewhat slower than the classic Suk Trio traversal though not in the finale where the momentum is exciting. One of my few complaints relates to the recording not the performance. It’s rather up-front and quite dry and so there’s not much bloom to the strings, which on occasion - the violin of Streten Krstic especially - sound a touch wiry. It’s true that the Gelius trio is not quite so adept at floating some of the more lyrical paragraphs and that by comparison with some other recordings they can, from time, seem a bit straight backed – but compensation comes in the shape of the athletic and committed playing.

The slow movement isn’t as sharply etched or as rhythmically urgent as the Suk Trio but in the context of the Gelius’s playing it’s entirely consistent, with a second subject that is broad and singing. Possibly the dynamics could be more acutely judged but that might be a question of the recording balance. And the withdrawn quality that many of the finest native trios find in this movement is not so evident, though the zest the Gelius brings will have to do in place of wistful freshness. These things are in any case a question of degree. The finale is certainly fast, not quite furious, but exciting and energetic. It’s a more than competent reading all in all – not a front-runner but a well-considered and vital performance.

The companion work is an older established cornerstone of the Czech chamber repertoire, Smetana’s Op.15. Things open very expressively, heavily vibrated and bordering on the overwrought – but things soon settle down into the Gelius modus operandi, which is one of generous intensity. The sense of ensemble is fine in this work, as fine indeed as in the companion. The rhythm is crisp, tight, Micaela Gelius proving an impressive guide, perhaps at her very – and considerable – best in the driving finale. Her partners match tonal and vibrato matters well. One criticism here; I wish they’d slightly relax more within a phrase - in the second movement in particular. Some of the playing is just a little too quick to allow them to phrase more broadly with the result that the performance is rather unsmiling. It could do with a bit of yielding to be even more effective.

Not a first choice then – but this is a trio to watch.

Jonathan Woolf 



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