Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor Op.49 (1839) [29:25]
Piano Trio No.2 in C minor Op.66 (1845) [29:19]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Clavierstücke in canonischer form Op.56 (1845) arr. Theodor Kirchner 1880s [28:27]
Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch (Hagai Shaham (violin); Arnon Erez (piano); Raphael Wallfisch (cello))
rec. April 2011, Nimbus Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI 5875 [77:14]
This is a most distinguished example of chamber music making by a relatively recent ensemble, all of whom are well known to record buyers and concert-goers. The core of the partnership is that of Shaham and Erez, who are duo partners. Their flowering into a trio, via the addition of Wallfisch, sets fair to enrich the discography with perceptive, malleable and finely considered performances if this inaugural disc is anything to go by.
They have chosen the Mendelssohn trios and have chosen wisely. The C minor Op.66 is underpinned by Erez’s sparkling and invigorating pianism. The trio avoids undue rubati, ensuring that the spine of the music-making presses forward though never at the expense of breathing phraseology, when required of them. A splendid balance is thus maintained between momentum and consideration. The slow movement is full of restrained poetry, rapt yet chaste, enriched by touching little violin lines. The scherzo is astutely and wristily bowed and the finale is excitingly proclaimed, albeit energised through the most subtle and precise of means – plenty of clarity amidst the strong and heroic chorale, therefore.
Similar qualities inform the performance of the companion trio in D minor, which is probably the more often played and recorded. Again the playing is sensitively shaped, lyrical and avoiding heaviness. Shaham’s vibrato is often quite light and quick and he and Wallfisch ensure that vibrato speeds and colours are consonant and consistent. Opportunities to saturate the Andante are wisely resisted, the trio preferring a just balance between the dictates of expression and those of scale and architecture. A particularly fine example of this is the way they shape and project the elfin qualities of the scherzo.
The coupling is unusual and in some ways unexpected — the six Clavierstücke in canonischer form Op.56 Schumann wrote in 1845, the year in which Mendelssohn wrote his C minor trio - overlook the disc cover which speaks of only five canons**. These piano works were published in 1855 and arranged by Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903) for trio in the 1880s. Brahms greatly admired Kirchner’s adaptations of his own music, and it’s clear from Kirchner’s Schumann work that he had an ingenious ear. These Canons take on a very definite sound world and sense of characterisation in the trio medium. There’s deftness to them, a sense too of a ‘love duet’ element (in the fourth) and a rather delightfully charged, military but essentially good humoured march theme in the fifth. The last one is truly lovely. They’re played with elegance and deft rhythm.
Given excellently balanced recordings, these first class performances are evidence of sensitive and imaginative music-making.
Jonathan Woolf

** We have informed Nimbus of the error and they will correct the Cover.
Excellently balanced, first class performances, sensitive and imaginative music-making.