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Édouard LALO (1823-1892)
Piano Trio No.1 in C minor, Op. 7 (c.1850/52) [21:39]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 5 (1859) [18:47]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49 (1839) [30:02]
Petrof Piano Trio (Martina Schulmeisterová (piano); Jan Schulmeister (violin); Kamil Žvak (cello))
rec. 10-11 November 2012, Sound Studio HASMU, Prague, Czech Republic

Founded in 2009 by Moravian violinist Jan Schulmeister, the Petrof Piano Trio has, through Nimbus, released an attractive disc of three nineteenth century piano trios. Schulmeister is a highly experienced chamber music player - a member of the Wihan Quartet who are renowned performers of the Czech musical tradition.
The first score is from the pen of Frenchman Édouard Lalo, a contemporary of Schumann and Brahms. He was a admired composer in his day. Lalo drifted away from the string quartet genre towards the trio which featured an increasingly prominent piano role. His two piano trios, composed around 1850/52, mark Lalo’s emergence as one of the first French composers to write for this combination. He went on to produce a third trio nearly thirty years later in 1880.
Lalo’s writing produces a squally quality to the opening movement of his Trio No. 1 and the Romance opens with a soft and gentle piano solo rather like a lullaby. This is taken up in turn by the violin and the cello. In the Scherzo the writing is upbeat, vibrant and genuinely appealing. Commencing with a passionate cello solo the Finale maintains both passion and intensity with all the instruments blending well.
Interest in Max Bruch is burgeoning and not just for his world famous Violin Concerto No. 1 although it eclipses the rest of his output in terms of popularity.
Bruch wrote a small number of satisfying chamber works mostly toward the end of his life. However the Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 5 is an early work from 1859 and reveals the young man still under the influence of Mendelssohn his fellow countryman. The first of the three movements is an attractive and lyrical Andante molto cantabile. It is highly romantic yet maintains a certain nobility. Sustaining an attractively lyrical nature the central Allegro assai increases in appeal and the Finale is energetic and vibrant with plenty of forward momentum.
Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, composed in 1839, was an immediate success. It has proved to be one of the composer’s most perennially popular scores. Cast in well balanced proportions with a prominent piano part this joyous and exuberant four movement work is exquisite and remains the most admired of Mendelssohn’s two piano trios. Without doubt this is the masterwork among this programme. It starts with an extremely delightful Molto allegro agitato. Its breezy music is wonderfully tender in spirit. The Andante is especially gorgeous being highly lyrical in the manner of one of his piano pieces collectively titled ‘Songs without words’. Typically the Scherzo is dartingly elfin and dashes about with spirited energy. The concluding Allegro assai appassionato is both windswept and more serious.
Recorded at the Sound Studio HASMU in Prague the sound engineers have balanced the sound of the instruments well. The piano and cello have appealing timbres with the violin rather less so. Although beautifully in tune the rather thin and slightly astringent violin sound would have been helped by a warmer recording. What immediately strikes me about the Petrof Trio is the strength of their unity. They certainly play with conviction and character. The music is revealed naturally with clarity and crispness.
Michael Cookson