Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857) Trio pathétique in D minor (1832) [14:19]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Piano Trio in A minor Op.50 (1882) [47:54]
Moscow Rachmaninov Trio
rec. March and April 2000, State House of Broadcasting and Audio Recording, Moscow

This disc first appeared around a decade ago on Hyperion CDA67216, and now makes a reappearance on the company’s lower budget Helios label. The repertoire is Russian, one a canonic trio, the other a far less well known work which was originally written for entirely different forces. I suppose the Tchaikovsky A minor can’t help but dwarf most disc companions – not merely by virtue of its size but also by the very nature of its emotional depth and passionate melancholy. It’s perhaps for this reason that the Glinka was chosen, though it actually serves as a not unattractive aperitif. But aperitif, I have to say, is what it very much remains.

It was written in 1832 and is a compact four movement work lasting here less than a quarter of an hour. It was originally written for clarinet, bassoon and piano but it has long been better known in its arrangement for standard piano trio. It cleaves to an interesting lineage, sounding in places not unlike Beethovenian models, most expressly in the opening movement. The scherzo that follows is energetic but light-hearted in style and tone, though Glinka ensures that there are moments of contrast, which are genteelly pugnacious. There is warm filigree in the Largo, but the decorative, indeed almost rococo piano plasticity points to a none too profound sense of depth. The finale exploits those almost contradictory elements of the genteel and the stormy that are embodied in this work. It’s played with circumspect intelligence by the Moscow Rachmaninov Trio, who are wise to the work’s more superficial elements.

Concerning the Tchaikovsky Trio I must be rather more circumspect. This is a perfectly serviceable performance, well laid out and distributed, with a just balance between the instruments. It is however something of a partial reading of the score, something that might come as balm for those who tire of high voltage examinations of its gruelling rhetoric. Yet few surely would prefer this rather discreet and tidy performance to that, say, of the Borodin Trio or the Gilels-Kogan-Rostropovich of hallowed memory, or indeed the Ashkenazy-Perlman-Harrell. What this performance lacks is not necessarily molten vibratos and conquistador pianism, but a cumulative sense of the work’s power. That said, one is pleased to note that the big cut sometimes taken is declined by these forces.

Even so, one can hardly recommend a disc for fourteen minutes of genial Glinka. The burden of the matter is a lightweight Tchaikovsky Trio, so caveat emptor.

Jonathan Woolf