Karl GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Suite No. 2 for violin and piano, op. 43 (1892) [32:05]
Piano Trio No. 1, op. 4 (1858) [28:47]
Pavel Kašpar (piano), Thomas Irnberger (violin), Michal Kaňka (cello)
rec. November 2013 (trio), March 2015 (suite), Mozartsaal, Salzburg
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical
GRAMOLA 99082 SACD [60:52]

Thomas Irnberger has done fine work in adding to the Goldmark discography. His recordings for Gramola include the second trio (review), violin concerto and sonata (review) and other works for violin and piano, including the Suite No. 1. One could also add Gramola’s recording, sans Irnberger, of the string quartet and quintet (review). The present recording doesn’t complete the composer’s chamber music: if that is to occur, a cello sonata and two piano quintets remain.

The Suite is Goldmark when well established in Vienna. It is a light work, substantial in duration, but rather less so in content. There are some fine ideas, but they don’t tend to go anywhere. At its best, it is charming, and I’m sure it was popular in the Viennese salons of the days. There is no indication in the booklet that this is a first recording, but I can find no other currently available one, making this a very attractive proposition for Goldmark fans.

Trio No. 1 takes us back more than three decades to a time when Goldmark was moving away from his youthful enthusiasm for Mendelssohn, though not too far. It is a mostly sunny and amiable work, but with darker Schumannesque elements starting to appear. The two themes in the opening movement are both interesting but so different that the transition, if one can call it that, is quite jarring. The Adagio is undoubtedly the pick of the four movements, full of meltingly lyrical melodies. The Scherzo is amusingly galumphing, while the Finale has some excellent moments, both tender and dramatic, one can rather see the joins.

As with the second trio on the earlier recording, this sweeps an admittedly thin and not especially distinguished field. The Bartos Trio (Hungaroton) are ponderous, and the only reason to choose the Mendelssohn Trio (Centaur) over Irnberger would be that you want both trios on the one disc. In that case, I would suggest that you buy the Gramola recordings as downloads.

My main problem with the recorded sound, which has a quite rich acoustic, is the prominence given to the violin, at the expense of the cello in particular. I listened to this as a download at CD quality level, so can’t comment on any SACD aspects. While there were a few moments where Irnberger’s tonal quality wasn’t all that I might wish, they were few and far between. The booklet notes for this label are one of its many virtues.

These may not be Goldmark’s best efforts in the chamber music genre, but are far and away the best versions we are likely to see anytime soon.

David Barker

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