Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Trio in F minor, Op.65 (1883) [42:30]
Piano Trio in E minor, Op.90 "Dumky" (1891) [34:00]
Rosamunde Trio (Martino Tirimo (piano); Ben Sayevich (violin); Daniel Veis (cello))
rec. September 2008, Sound Studio HAMU, Prague
ALTO ALC 1058 [76:38]
Here we have a coupling of Dvořák's two finest piano trios - which should automatically make it two of the finest Romantic piano trios in the repertoire. The performances have a certain "Czech" sound, although the members of the Rosamunde Trio are international. This sound is vibrant, warm, and a bit heavy-handed. In my opinion, both works would benefit from greater "coolness", transparency and lightness of touch.
All this makes the Op.65 Trio even more Brahmsian than it actually is - especially the first movement. This trio comes from the time of the Violin Concerto, when Dvořák's music carried Brahms’ impress. The players deftly navigate through the perfect storm of the first movement, with one emotional climax following another. And not just navigate: they are the creators of this storm, whipping the sea. Blow, ye winds! Higher, ye waves! You must decide whether you like it or not: some like it hot, some like it cold. The troubles pictured by the composer definitely become more "subjective" than "objective" here.
The scherzo is well played - but it is ... well, played. There’s more magic to come in these pages, more tiptoeing lightness, more surprises. However, the gorgeous Adagio gains a lot from this approach, and I wouldn't want to change a jot there! It is warm and mellow, with wide, Tchaikovskian singing lines.
The turmoil returns in the finale. The main theme seems a bit rushed to me, but the lyrical second subject is played very sensitively. The coda, with its hints of the future New World Symphony, has a genuine brio. Indeed, the performance of the coda is even better than in my favorite recording - which I doubt someone can easily replace. No, it's not the Beaux Arts! And I haven't heard the much-admired Suk Trio. It's the Harmonia Mundi 2003 recording with Faust, Queyras and Melnikov. The violin has such celestial purity, such weightlessness, such drive without being driven; you ought to hear it. That's a performance that can make you fall in love with the piece. That said, I must admit that their first movement and the final coda are lacking something, compared to the Rosamunde Trio.
The Dumky Trio Op.90 may not be as deep and expressive as Op.65, but it surely is one of the most universally loved chamber compositions. Dvořák lets his imagination go free, and what we get is a wonderful sequence of fantasy images, fast and slow, happy and sad, light and dark. I did not hear Faust et al playing it, but there are plenty of excellent recordings around. The new one from the Rosamunde probably does not belong among the group of leaders, but it offers an interesting alternative view, and can be recommended if you would like to diversify your Dumkys.
The slow episodes have the breadth and the breathing - though not always the magic - of the best performances. The faster sections are good when they are loud: there is a lot of energy. When they are quiet, again, not all is said that can be said. The playing is very warm and humane; it has gold where others have quicksilver. Personally, I think quicksilver suits this music better - some may disagree.
The ensemble is well combined. I would especially praise the cellist Daniel Veis: his sound is always full and beautiful, with a fine feeling for nuance. The piano of Martino Tirimo is good too, but the violin of Ben Sayevich lacks finesse at some moments. The tempi, with all their frequent fluctuations, are excellently chosen. The recording quality is very good, opulent and spacious, well matching the "warm" approach of the ensemble. The insert notes tell briefly about Dvořák's biography, the works, and the performers.