Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Piano Trio No. 3, op. 65 (1883) [39:01]
Piano Trio No. 4, op. 90 (1891) [30:27]
Triple Forte (David Jalbert (piano), Jasper Wood (violin), Yegor Dyachkov (cello))
rec. 2013, Multimedia Room, École de musique Schulich, Université McGill, Montréal
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical

This recording was a timely release, appearing whilst I was writing the “D” composers section of my Piano Trio survey, in the midst of listening to numerous versions of these two great works. Set against some very intense versions – Trio Solisti (review) and the trio led by violinist Isabelle Faust – those of Triple Forte stood out as quite different, and required a number of listens for their qualities to emerge fully. My other references for these works are the Florestan and Beaux Arts trios.

Formed in 2003, Triple Forte is a trio of well-credentialed Canadian performers. Their only previous recording as a group was of the Ravel and Shostakovich trios (Atma Classique ACD22633) which I haven’t heard, and hasn’t been reviewed on this site. I will certainly rectify that omission by the time I get to the “R” part of the survey.

Recorded less often than the Fourth, the Third Trio may well be Dvořák’s finest. Written a few months after his beloved mother’s death, it is shot through with melancholy. It is apparent from the start that Triple Forte will not be wearing their hearts on their sleeves: the sorrow that they find is restrained, by comparison with Trio Solisti whose emotional performance of the first movement is quite draining. It is more a matter of dynamics than tempo: as you can see from the timings that Triple Forte is the slowest of my comparison recordings, but the difference is insignificant. They elect not to dig in as the Solistis and the Faust trio do. In this, they are more akin to the Florestans and the Beaux Arts. The wonderful dance rhythms of the scherzo are possibly a little under-characterised; here Faust and colleagues are unchallenged. As with the first movement, Triple Forte choose not to overdo the emotions of the Poco adagio, and here it works less well. The Florestan Trio I find simply astonishing in this movement, miraculously conjuring up such depths of emotion without recourse to heavily accented phrasing, which Trio Solisti can be prone to. It is in the final movment that Triple Forte’s more measured approach is most apparent in the tempo. Their timing of 10:26 is half a minute more than the next slowest of my comparisons (Florestan) and almost a minute and half more than the Beaux Arts: con brio it is not. The overall conclusion is that dynamically restrained emotions can work in this trio, but Triple Forte’s may be a little too much so.

It works much better in the Fourth ‘Dumky’ Trio. The work is named after the dumka, a Ukraine folk song style of contrasting characters. Each of the six movements uses one, all very different and in different keys. Away from the emotional background of the Third, the clean lines of the Triple Forte’s playing provide excellent contrast between the two elements. I have not heard the stillness of the piano line in the opening of the third movement made so haunting, almost chilling. In reviewing the Faust-Melnikov-Queyras recording of the Dumky (review), I concluded that it possibly swept the field, certainly surpassing my previous standard, the Florestan Trio. Triple Forte doesn’t change that assessment, but I am very, very impressed by their performance of this.

The booklet notes are not compendious, but they do provide the salient details about the works and the performers. The sound quality is very good, and I found myself regretting that I had not opted for the 24-bit alternative.

Triple Forte have taken a quite different approach to these two great works, compared to some of their well-regarded competitors. It works brilliantly in the Fourth, not so well in the Third.

David Barker

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