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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, op. 66 [28:32]
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, op. 49 [27:36]
Sitkovetsky Trio
rec. January 2014, St George's, Bristol, UK
BIS BIS-2109 SACD [56:59]

This is one of those CDs that has spent most of the last two weeks in the tray of my CD player and it has, in no way, outstayed its welcome. I just keep returning to it, playing it and enjoying it. I fully concur with the sentiments expressed by my colleague David Barker, who reviewed it in June, according it 'Recording of the Month' status, an accolade it certainly deserves.

This recording comes hot on the heels of the Sitkovetsky Trio's release last year of an album (BIS-CD-2059) of piano trios by Dvořák and Smetana, which included the Suk Elegy, their debut for the BIS label, which has been greeted with great critical acclaim. Since the Trio's formation in 2007 they appear to have gone from strength to strength, scooped up various awards along the way - The International Schumann Chamber Music Award 2008, and the NORDMETALL Chamber Music Award at the Mecklenberg Vorpommern Festival 2009. Their success has taken them all across Europe, and tours to China, Australia and the USA are on the cards.

Unusually the trios are placed in reverse order, maybe to end the CD with the more popular of the two trios. What draws me to these performances is the impassioned and high voltage playing on offer. These are three instrumentalists at the top of their game, who blend well and play with a sense of shared purpose. Tempi, phrasing and dynamics all seem comfortable and right and couldn't be bettered.

The Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, op. 66 is the lesser known of the two, yet this performance has won me over, and I can now see the wealth of melody and lyricism which imbues the score. The first movement opens with a sense of unease and continues with fire, energy and drive. In the slow movement the players evoke a feeling of wistful nostalgia. The Scherzo is delightful, light, quicksilver and capricious. The Trio is capped with an eloquent finale.

In the more familiar Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, op. 49, the first movement delivers drama and passionate fervour. A 'song without words' describes the slow movement, and the Sitkovetsky's are raptly intense. The Scherzo is a virtuosic tour de force, fleet and mercurial in true Mendelssonian spirit. The finale is awash with lush romantic gestures.

The BIS engineers have furnished these performances with state-of-the-art sound and St George's, Bristol boasts a superb acoustic. Perfect balance between all three instrumentalists has been achieved. It doesn't get much better than this.

I hope we'll be hearing more from these deeply committed artists in the future.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: David Barker (Recording of the Month)


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